[Undying] A diceless vampire role playing game of predation and intrigue

edited February 2013 in Story Games
This is the beta release of Undying!

Undying is now very focused and concise, tightly integrating a core diceless mechanic while very much keeping to its Apocalypse World roots. The game’s two economies, blood and debt fuel the core struggle with scarcity and leverage.



  • So cool. I love how this has grown and evolved from the early stuff. I'm excited to try it out.
  • Oh my God. This is Vampire: The Apocalypse World Hack, isn't it? That is fantastic.
  • edited February 2013
    Basically, yes. The serial numbers of Vampire: the Noun have been filed off; but, VtM was definitely the inspiration. I've left the vampire lore up to the gaming group, so it should work fine with just about any take on vampires.
  • This looks fantastic. It's the first thing I've seen which has made me want to play Vampire. And I've been thinking about various diceless AW mechanics myself for a while, this is fairly similar to some ideas I had going.

    One thing that's not clear to me is the "meddle" move: I think the text could use clarification. Who chooses which options, and when? Or is it supposed to be "obvious to anyone who plays Poker" (i.e. following the same turn structure, etc)? It's not to me, on a first read.

    Is the Meddle move basically just "when two predators enter into a conflict with each other (but without fighting)? Or do you intend it to be more nuanced than that?

  • Yeah, meddle is ambiguous as written. Rather than covering turn order in the move - because it's long as-is, I'll post about it on my blog. Meddle in play is really pretty straight forward. Basically, you just go around the table as you would in poker and each of the meddling predators chooses an option, narrating what they do in the fiction, and spending blood or debt as required. Meddle governs predator vs. predator conflict short of fight. If it escalates to fight, you just transition to the fight move, taking the blood you've already spent forward.
  • This is the most interesting and innovative hack of Apocalypse World to date, IMO. If you're an AW hacker, you really need to read and play this.
  • Meddle gets pretty nuanced, as each escalation or counter gets described as you revolve around the table. The scarcity of blood really drives you to do incremental one ups-manship.
  • Thanks John!
  • Couldn't you simply write something like:

    "Choose one from the list below. The predator doing the meddling starts."
  • Also: there's some probably some interesting design space related to how "ganging up" (pooling together your blood in a conflict) works. It makes a big difference, for instance, whether:

    * You choose to gang up before or after the blood totals are revealed.
    * You can choose to turn on someone you were combining your blood with after the totals are revealed.
  • edited February 2013
    So, just to be clear here, Meddle is supposed to tip off a bidding war, right? Maybe something like this would be clearer?

    When you meddle in the affairs of another predator, say what you do to interfere with or resist their actions, and spend 1 or more blood. They may then relent, or choose one of the following to resist:
    + They call in a debt you owe them.
    + They spend blood to match or exceed what you've spent.
    You can respond on the same terms. Take turns this way until you or they relent. At any time, another predator can support either of you by spending blood points, which add to your total spent.

    Hope this helps!
  • That helps. You have the right idea for meddle's aim.
  • The only thing missing from my summary is that calling in a debt should stop the process, yeah?
  • Paul, really interested in hearing your reasons for stripping the Social Class moves out of this version of the game. Did they not work in playtest? Because they totally rocked on the page.
  • I am curious as well as so much of AW and so much of the WoD (which I know was a starting inspiration) is about the social / political?
  • Well, taking a guess, I think without the dice game being involved a lot of the Social Class stuff just armed a bit more lumbering. As it stands, I think this game still looks super political, just with a lot of the politic moved into a space more like the fruitful void. I quite enjoyed the earlier version, but looking at this one makes me angry at myself for not having more days in the week.
  • @TildeSee has it right. I got rid of the social moves from the last version not because they aren't important to Undying (they're actually central to it); but, because I believe I've condensed them into a more robust and streamlined status trait / debt economy cycle. The game used to focus more on specific means, now it leaves the means up to you and just provides a basic framework. Because of that, the scheming and posturing occur in the fiction and you engage the rules at the point of conflict. Basically, I got rid of "shaping" moves - the ones that push you toward a showdown but don't actually resolve it. Now, when you make a move, you make a hard move. Up to that point, it's a conversation.

    With moves like hunting, pecking order, and coerce, it's clear in this iteration of the game, that status and debt really matter to your character's autonomy. There's a clear reason why you want to get patrician status and why you never want to become a pariah.

    @revel911 There are many takes on vampire. My thought - pick one and try to focus the game around that one thing. Then, as someone playing the game, you pick the game that best suites your take on vampires and your style of play. Undying used to be aimed more toward the vampire monster vs. humanity theme; but, over the course of many play tests, it was clear that's not where this game needed to go.
  • edited February 2013
    The hunt your prey in the night move seems like it resolves pretty much the entire scene from start to finish. But my understanding is that playing out these scenes is supposed to be a big part of the game. I'm worried that this could make it easy for a player to just choose some stuff from the list, have the GM narrate it, and end the scene without really delving into the whole predator vs. humanity dynamic that the game is trying to play up.

    I'd love to see an AP that shows how you handle this move.

    This hack looks pretty great, I'm looking forward to seeing where you take it from here!
  • Really? I figured it resolved everything until just before you sink your teeth in them, or interrogate them, or beat them bloody for Molotov-ing your buddy who's-going-to-be-okay-but-its-the-principle-of-the-thing. It just determines the fiction to the point where tippy have then exactly where you want them, anything after is up to you and your future moves.

    I don't have an AP as I'm still trying to get folk together for it, but I see it needing to work like so:

    Wolf- Stalking on the rooftops, I track down that sonovabitch ganger who tried to take out my Beta. Nobody pisses on my Beta but me. That's a hunt, yeah?

    MC- Yeah. You descend on him shortly after he breaks off from his friends, three of them. When you descend, he sees your shadow and starts bolting down the alley. He knows this turf, it's his after all. Well, not as well as you, anyway, how do you outfox him?

    Wolf- Pff, that's easy. I toss a bottle to his right so he goes left; there's a fence on the left side, and that'll slow him down long enough that I can pull him down. Then I punch him in the gut. A shame my pack and I didn't put that Patrician Gustav in his place yet. I'll spend one blood to choose two (tosses a poker chip into the bowl in the centre). I corner him quickly and I hain't getting caught.

    MC- Well, your punch to the gut is a little high. He falls right to the ground and starts coughing up blood. He looks up at you with terror in his eyes. What do you do?

    Wolf- I said I'd teach him a lesson, right? Well, I say- actually, I don't say nothin'. I just smile and give him a few kicks. Shove him over with my foot so he's on his back.

    MC- Looking down on him, crying a bit as you just lay in to him, it's hard not to feel disgusted with yourself. This is a person, and you're treating him like he's just so much meat. What's that say about you?

    Wolf- Pff, fuck it. Says nothing 'bout me. He fucked with me, he gets made an example of. Screw it. I give him one more for the road and then fall on him. I could use a meal. I take three (grabs chips from the bowl). If his boys find him in time, whatever. I stop when I want to, and I don't tear at his flesh, but he's going to remember this for the horror it is.

    MC- Apparently. Your feel your teeth sink into his flesh, and the blood comes rushing into your mouth, and it's bitter with his terror. You can hear him trying and failing to call out and push you off, but you're just too strong. His fingers dig into your arm, and then go limp as he loses consciousness.

    Wolf- Whatever. After I've taken my fill, I cast his limp body aside and climb back up to the roof. I have a Patrician to terrorize.


    That help? Especially with the hunt move, there's really specifically MC input. They tell you who they are, how they try to escape you. There's a lot of power in that, lots of room to get deep, lots of place to stick to your principles. I think I'mma set up a G+run of it for tomorrow. This just feels too interesting to let it lay fallow any longer.
  • I'm not saying you can't do it that way, just that it seems like the way the move is written would make it easy and tempting to skip over the bloody human details. Like, there's nothing in the move itself that would stop you from going: "I corner him quickly and I don't get caught. I beat the shit out of him and then take 3 blood. Then I'm out of there, I've got a Patrician to terrorize."

    You're right that the move does give the MC the space to slow you down and make you go over the details, but there doesn't seem to be anything in the move itself that requires or incentivizes you to do that.

    It might not really be a big problem in play though, I couldn't say obviously.
  • Well, I really think it is in the move. Part of it is that, being a AW hack, everything must be about the conversation, the back and forth. You don't get to the choices without having the conversations, otherwise the player and MC are both breaking the rules, both of the move, and the MC is breaking their principles.

    The move as written means that the MC must tell you who the person is, and the desperate things they do to escape you, and you must tell the MC how you very definitely catch them, informed by your choices.

    If the Wolf says, "yeah, remember that guy who fucked me over? Yeah, I hunt him down, quietly, and I don't get caught. And after I rough him up a little, I drain him for three blood," and the MC doesn't go,"whoa! Slow the crap down! So wait, you're hunting this guy? Well..." Then they've both ignored a bunch of rules, and nothing in a game can force you too pay attention to the rules.

    And remember, MC principles are very much rules that must be followed.
  • edited February 2013
    That said, what do you think you could do to incentivise the back and forth? I can't think of anything besides "well fuck, that's what we're here for, and the book says we have to, right?", but of you have any ideas otherwise, I would totally love to hear them :-D

    EDIT: Aaaaand here's the link for my G+Hangout Game of this thing. Yeah!
  • What does a game session look like for this, Paul? As a gm, how do I prepare? How do I start the game?
  • Kay, I'm sold. This game rocks so far. Also my voice is ridiculously high pitched, and I talk fast. Ish. Anyway, if you want to see how it played for us, and have an hour or two, or like skipping through dead air, the link is here. I'm listening now, and I'm concerned I need to learn to talk slower...

    Anyway, I'll post our Debt Map pretty soon here too, along with a recap of play. Also, thinking, I'm now forever going to call it "The Debt Map" rather than just "a relationship map".

    Thanks to @horn_head_o and @LivebytheDie for joining me here.
  • @TildeSee You have it spot on. I haven't had a chance to follow your links yet, though.

    @Graham check out the supporting text, I wrote a chapter discussing how to start a game. I'm particularly interested in any critical feedback you have there.
  • Interesting! It seems very Vampire-esque (from what little I know of that game). Kudos on you for writing one of the few AW hacks that actually tells you how to play it! I'll have to read it more carefully to say anything more, but it's nice to see that the text exists.

  • edited February 2013
    @TildeSee You have it spot on. I haven't had a chance to follow your links yet, though.

    @Graham check out the supporting text, I wrote a chapter discussing how to start a game. I'm particularly interested in any critical feedback you have there.
    Paul, I did, but I found it hard to get a picture of what I'd do. Could you take me through it? Give me an example?

    When I read it, I could think of two ways of starting: firstly, with a Sorcerer-style Bang for each character, which keeps the characters rather separate; secondly, with a more traditional Here Is The Plot This Week start, in which an NPC sends them on a mission. Neither seems right.

    So, yeah, I'm thinking about running this in two weeks time, but I'm not sure what I'd actually do.

  • The starters I've used are 1. A rival upstart, Dahlgren the Red, enlists allies to topple the Prince of Port Royal. 2. A PC is framed for the murder of a beloved (and much envied) rising star.

    The game starts with a dramatic, upsetting situation. It can be an blessing for some of the PCs and a bane for others. It doesn't have to be fair; but, it should drive them to action.

    You can prep a plot hook to get things started or you can look to your relationship map and find an interesting debt dependency and use it as leverage to draw them into some scheme.
  • Thanks a bunch for checking out my game! Let me know if you have any more questions and let me know how it goes!
  • I actually just went with giving open opportunity. "The Queen Carmella is having a fete. All eyes that matter will be there. Do you care about the politics to be played, or do you have darker deeds that take advantage of nobody looking out?" Wasn't a punchy start, but made a good one shot.
  • edited February 2013
    I like Tilde's start. It focusses things on the player characters. I worry that Paul's start would focus things on NPCs. (This is generally something I'm not sure about: how do you make schemes interesting, without making the game about the NPCs?)

    I remain a bit confused, but I'll try it and see how it goes.
  • edited February 2013
    Fundamentally, Undying should be started like AW should be started: with a swift kick. It doesn't really matter what the kick is, so long as it gets the players engaged in the fiction. Then, the spotlight is on them, you follow where they lead. They decide whether to run with the situation you've handed them or pursue their own agenda. Getting started, you want to give them a sandbox world to play in, but you also want to toss some toys into the sandbox for them to start playing with.

    The reason you should consider using NPCs is that it gets the PCs embroiled in the status cycle by emphasizing how they are at the bottom and should be setting their sights on patrician.
  • 1) Is the Hunting move made only for physical hunting ? Socializing in a club seems to be out of the scope, here. Am I right ? Maybe the Bait move is the replacement when these situations arise.

    2) Hunting move : you can get caught. By who ? Preys ? Predator ? Police ? Liege ? The MC needs to create a danger of being caught before you make your choice ?

    3) If a predator chose not to manipulate the memories of a prey after Feeding on them, what keeps him from doing it anyway, with the Supernatural move ? If he can, though, all the pressure from the low Humanity really disappear.

    4) In the Meddle move, is what's at stake decided upfront or is it left to the flow of fiction and the exchange of claims ?

    5) I can't see why "tou must agree on definite terms" is a constraint for the coercer, could you help me understand ? (maybe it's the non-native language)

    6) Is the move Bait just an opportunity to reduce the cost of Supernatural move for high Humanity characters ? Because the other can totally do the same things with this move, by paying blood.

    7) Big ellipsis can be problems, don't they ? Say the GM asserts a year-long ellipsis, describing how the previous Liege is killed and how a big bad Wolf took his place, creating savage dynamics in the night life. And a player was a close friend of the Liege and won't ever have let such a predator rule the night. Has the GM gone too far or is it legitimate use of the Passage of Time ?

    8) I don't understand what means "If you have the opportunity to offer or collect new debts, you are free to do so" in the context of the Passage of Time. What does look like this part of play ?

    9) For the Puppet Master entreprise and Succubus devotees, do the 10 Blood has to be spent on moves, or outside ? Put another way, do ten 1-Blood uses of the Supernatural move (in the context of growing the entreprise/clique) count, or do the 10 Blood has to be spent exclusivelly for the task ?

    10) It seems like the system itself force the setting of the game to have one unique Liege. Can't it be a triumvirat ? Or a council of ancients of each clan ? What if there is a political power and a religious power, orthogonal to each other ?
  • Thanks for your questions!

    1) Hunting is more physical, Bait is more social. Choose the move based on the fictional circumstances. Let the move's choices be your guide.

    2) Who you get caught by is up to the GM. Those are all good examples. Who you get caught by should flow from the fiction; but, the details do not need to be established beforehand.

    3) The move establishes what they do. So, if they don't choose to wipe their memories, then they didn't in that moment. The GM has license to take action based on the players' choice -- like scream and flee in terror, which might cause problems. Nothing stops them from doing it after the fact and it's OK if they do, it just costs them blood.

    4) The terms flow from the bidding. Each time someone escalates or counters, new terms are added.

    5) In the move coerce, the one being coerced chooses a number of options based on their status. So, choosing to make them agree to definite terms forces them to tell you specifically what you have to do to fulfill your obligation. The choices in coerce, soften the blow for the one being coerced.

    6) Yes. Thematically, it reinforces high humanity characters interacting with people.

    7) I don't think it's a problem. In our game, one jump was 50 years. The thing you described, a change of power is an event you should jump to, not jump over. A conversation needs to happen when the passage of time move is made. If something comes up in the interim that someone thinks should be played through, then maybe it should. Otherwise, the players passage of time move lets them say what the did with their time.

    8) It just means that you can make as many debt deals as you want before normal play resumes.

    9) To improve their enterprise or cult, they need to do things in the fiction that improve the situation. To accomplish that, they may spend blood on moves like supernatural, bait, and meddle. If they do, they should spend 10 blood, give or take. It's really the GM's call. If they do something that clearly improves the situation, then the should get to add a strength.

    10) That's up to you, as a GM. By default, there's only only one liege. If you decide there are two or more in your city, that's OK too. But, maybe the real situation is there is no liege. maybe there are only patricians?
  • Cool! I like the new moves sheet.
  • Undying 3.1 is now available! This release concludes my planned revisions to the content. Next step: art and layout for a kickstarter!
  • Looks super great, Paul. Can't wait to play this again and see how much is changed. The new diceless mechanics look really sweet. I love how you can never quite get everything you want and sometimes you can't get anything you want.
  • I was excited to play this before the new version, and now I'm really excited to play this.

    Out of curiosity, what prompted the omission of the Fallen Angel? Did it just seem too easy to make one character seem less evil than the others?
  • JWalt - cool, thanks! This latest rev mostly just makes those moves even harder; but, the new Satisfaction move now gives a player the ability to change their character's Humanity on their terms.

    Jason, hope you get a chance soon! I took the Fallen Angel out because I couldn't to nail down the playbook moves. I've been struggling with that playbook all along. In the interest of getting the text done, I cut the Fallen Angel playbook. The Fallen Angel may show up again in the future, if I figure out what to do with it.
  • Jason, hope you get a chance soon! I took the Fallen Angel out because I couldn't to nail down the playbook moves. I've been struggling with that playbook all along. In the interest of getting the text done, I cut the Fallen Angel playbook. The Fallen Angel may show up again in the future, if I figure out what to do with it.
    Cool, thanks! (Sounds like a Kickstarter stretch goal, perhaps...)
  • Paul: Yeah, I haven't played it since it stopped using dice but I'm super glad its moved in this direction. Just makes so much sense and seems like it'll make things more immediate and visceral -- and Vincent's favorite word, "irrevocable."
  • JWalt the Coerce move is so choice in play. If they outrank you, you can either do what they want or become a pariah instantly. Maybe you have a little mojo and can amend their demand, maybe not, but you are sure as hell doing it. It's really nice.
  • Yeah, every time I read coerce, the evil GM part of me grins and the player part of me cringes.
  • Yeah, that's how the social status move works in Ghost Opera too. I'm a huge fan of that kind of thing. Do you want to violate the norms of society? Awesome, but you have to pay the cost to be the boss!
  • I had a great time playing this @goplayNW2013. I only wish we had had more time. Would have loved to see the relationships between the predators escalate as they would have..
  • This looks like it's getting better and better!

    Also, I like the Coerce move, but I'm not 100% sure I understand the three options. For instance, what's the difference between bargaining and making a concession?

    Is this explained anywhere (maybe examples)? I think it could use (just a touch of) clarification, for, ahem, some of us.
  • Bargaining is its own move, dealing with debts!
  • @Nate Marcel - yeah, I had a great time to and man that was a sweet game session. I got us off to a slow start and that didn't help; but, there's only so much you can do in a con game. I hope you have a chance to get a game of Undying going in your neck of the woods!

    @Paul_T Thanks, just wait 'till you see the art for this project!

    If you choose bargain, then you make the bargain move with them and they must negotiate debt with you. Since they are higher in the pecking order, the deal favors them. If you don't choose this option, the you work for free.

    If you choose concessions, then they must agree to your proposed caveat. So, when they make the coerce move, you must do the thing; but, you might make them agree to keep your involvement in the thing secret, for example. Maybe they must do a thing for you first. Those are concessions. If you don't choose concessions, then they do what they want.

    Note: there is no consequence to the predator making the coerce move for dismissing your terms and nullifying their move. Being on top has its privileges.

    As for putting more examples in the text, I'm leaning towards no. I'd rather have the discussion outside the text in forum space rather than over-specifying the text. Two reasons: 1) I want to keep the text short and sweet and 2) looking at the endless AW & DW discussions: despite their efforts to provide examples, it isn't clear those examples prevent confusion about the rules. So, I wonder how much value those examples really add? That's my design choice. Just one more experiment in this game.

    Besides, it's fine with me if you interpret the moves differently that I do. Just 'cause I wrote the game doesn't mean I'm right about it ;)
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