Is AW suited to Gamist/challenge-based play?

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  • edited August 2013
    Yeah, I'm with Scrape on this one: that's how I've been reading (and running) AW and its descendants.

    I am curious what some examples are of OD&D rules (in the broad sense) that support fairness in adjucating.
    Well, we've already discussed, for instance, the measurement of time and turns: we keep of movement rates and resources spent, everyone gets an equal chance to act, and so on.

    Another example is the function of "DM rulings", as described in the Old-School Primer. The 1977 Basic D&D set describes this as follows:
    You are sure to encounter situations not covered by these rules. Agree on a probability that an event will occur and convert it into a die roll - roll the number and see what happens!
    In particular, this comes into play when a certain plan is attempted which has a very high or a very low chance of failure. Let's say a dungeon heist revolves around a character throwing a glass jar full of oil in through a door into complete darkness: he can't see where he's throwing it, but is hoping that it lands on a pressure plate about 4 feet across. If he succeeds, the death trap will be deactivated and the party will survive. If he fails, the party will be trapped and quickly perish. How can we handle this kind of thing in the AW framework?

    These are just some examples; I think we've been discussing lots of others during the course of this thread.

  • I mean, that's some serious Die of Fate action, right? The crux of the question seems to be, does this situation involve the character's skills and abilities? Or is this something totally out of her hands, something determined by the world itself? The "hail Mary" throw is something I've seen questioned quite a bit and it seems to be a sticking point for a lot of folks. Some of it is handled by the games themselves: if you have a Dex stat, do you use that to throw a ball? What about Cool? Is it Cool to throw a hail Mary pass or is it just the whim of the world?
  • edited August 2013
    Is it even possible to remain principled over what is essentially a random call? If I close my eyes and shoot, what gets hit? Can an MC apply their principles to that situation? Personally, I've never seen it come up at the table but it's worth thinking about, I suppose.

    Edit 'cause I'm mulling this over: I think that this doesn't come up very often precisely because the fiction models everything so well, without numbers. With a GURPS-like "physics engine," the game is telling you that mechanics will accommodate anything, and that every advantage can be applied numerically. A natural extension of this thought process is "so what are my odds of success? What's the chance that the gun jams? What's the chance that X happens instead...?" However, in AW, the game is telling us "Whatever happens, it will make sense, you will not be shocked by the 1% possibilities. A freak accident won't ruin your plan, only a real obstacle will do that. If you set yourself up for success then you will be successful. That's an important statement! It seems to make my players dig deep into the fiction and get their ducks in a row, ensuring the best outcomes when they can. It has never, so far, made them want to take a wild stab in the dark. The planned, considered action is always more attractive to them.

    To me, that seems to mesh really well with challenge-based play.
  • The random call / die of fate issue is actually pretty interesting in a wider context, it comes up in many different games. (I'm not that hot to trod specifically about whether AW is or isn't a gamist game - seems like a pretty academic question for anybody not specifically interested in trying to play it that way.) Some games incorporate it in their systems, while for others it's anathema, not unlike e.g. random character generation, which is a similar technical issue that runs through unrelated games. The usual split is between whether the game assumes a GM with dramatic coordination duties, or whether the game assumes a neutral referee; in the former case a game may opt to say that "there is no luck", and therefore a legitimate die of fate does not exist - if one is rolled, that's a player abrogating their responsibility to make creative choices. On the other hand, a game that doesn't do dramatic coordination, such as old school D&D, relies heavily on arbitrary dicing to randomize events that are out of the hands of the player characters, and therefore an impromptu randomization is the only fair way of refereeing a sequence.

    My reading of AW doesn't indicate that it'd be a game for random calls - it's more like TSoY, wherein the Story Guide just frames situations and outcomes to maximize character spotlight and potential for dramatic choices, and the conflict resolution system is utilized abstractly to cover the gaps. Thus the AW MC would presumably rule that e.g. a Hail Mary throw would succeed or not on the basis of his own arbitrary aesthetics, or he would deem it a move so as to incorporate it into the conflict resolution system. (Presumably the choice would depend on how exactly the event had been framed - did the player offer this fictional event as a move of his own, or was it just an open invitation for the MC to move the events along?) Not an expert here, though, so maybe there is some minor room for the other sort of technique in there that I haven't noticed.
  • I guess my concern is that there's no modeling of difficulty. And maybe that's just me failing to fully adopt the AW Newthink.

    Let's say you get into a bad gunfight. You want to run away. It's probably Act under Fire. (Forgive me if I use the wrong moves; it's been a year since I played AW.) My worry is that as long as you can narrate some kind of plausible "run away," it's the same roll. It doesn't matter how awesome your plan for running away is. Act under Fire. Where's the challenge there?

    Maybe the answer is, "It's not there; it's somewhere else," and that's fine. But that part of AW doesn't seem particularly challenge-facilitating to me. In a gunfight you probably only have a couple possible moves at all, and probably two (Act under Fire, Seize Something by Force). So you pick one and narrate the bare minimum to get the GM to let you do it.

    To be challenge-facilitating, a game has to give players choices and some choices have to be better than others and optimizing those choices has to be non-trivial. The main choices that AW gives players is what happens on a 7-9 roll, and maybe that's the challenging part that I'm not seeing clearly.

    Perhaps BECAUSE "to do it, do it" rules the game, GMs have no room for fiat. That fiat is what makes OSR games work. "I cover the ten sheep in pitch, light them on fire, and drive them into Temple of Darkness!" First, I'm not even sure how I'd adjudicate that in AW. Second, there basically needs to be a move there, right?

    Admittedly, that last bit is a totally nascent thought, not fully formed in the least. I considered deleting it, but I think there is enough there that has value to be worth letting it live. =)
  • edited August 2013
    I think there's been some disconnect in this thread about fictional vs mechanical risk/reward choices. To summarize:
    AWnotG: "In AW your cleverness doesn't impact your success!"
    AWyesG: "Yes it does! Your fictional choices impact the fictional possibility space which determines what you stand to gain or lose!"
    AWnotG: "But your tactics have no bearing on your likelihood of success!"
    AWyesG: "Sure they do! Sometimes the fiction will dictate that you don't even get or need a roll!"

    I don't think the "not Gamist" description is sufficiently clear, and I don't think the "yes Gamist" response actually addresses it.

    I don't think anyone could contend that in AW the fiction is irrelevant and therefore player attempts to skillfully work with it for strategic advantage are also irrelevant. Yeah? No need to defend AW from that; that isn't the accusation that's being leveled.

    Instead, it's a question of how relevant and in what ways are what types of skill?

    There's a common situation in old-school D&D play where the players are looking at two options, and one would yield more loot or advantage than the other, but it's also harder than the other, and so players are faced with a choice like "climb the difficulty-3 hill for a better view, or climb the difficulty-15 mountain for ambush position?" In AW, analogous fictional uncertainty is handled very differently by the rules. The choice might instead be "read a situation with not much the MC can obviously do to you if you fail, or read a more informative situation wherein failure might mean the MC could say you fall down a mountain".

    These are different types of choices. Due to the leeway the MC is afforded in AW, the AW choice offers nothing so concrete in terms of probability as "3 vs 17". The choice in AW is more vague and approximate in terms of how the relative difficulties of the two options will manifest, at least until the group comes up with their own solution involving secondary rolls or countdown clocks or something. In D&D play, on the other hand, the landscape is dominated by numbers that can be compared to each other, assuring players of a certain relationship between their choices.

    Separately, I also think most readings/playings of AW render "you don't need to roll, that would simply succeed/fail" much rarer than in the more numbers-lite old school gaming I do. So rather than "3 or 17" vs "extremely specific outcome distributions A or B", it's more like "whatever makes sense in the fiction, to be determined specifically, full stop" vs "whatever makes sense in the fiction within a very wide range of possibilities, to be navigated by the move".

    I realize AW allows you to add +1 and -1 for "this is hard" or "that action is perfect", but that seems rare from the AP I've read. It rewards a kind of probability-based thinking that most groups don't bring to AW in the first place because the game doesn't otherwise incline them to use it.

    Anyone who wants to say that none of this matters is simply failing to acknowledge the importance of certain features to many Gamist players.
  • David: To jump back in after a long time away. I think you're right on the money there. There's a few other things I would add.

    The probability of success in most AW-based games does change in one critical way: through being able to leverage relevant information & positioning gained through the tactical use of other moves. The best example of this is Read a Charged Situation, right? You ask question and if you can use the answers to your benefit, you take +1 on any roll where you do that (up to a +3, if you can take advantage of all three questions from a 10+ result). There are also a bunch of other moves that give you +1 forward in certain situations, including Helping, but also a bunch of other things that are more ideosyncratic. But in my experience, Read a Charged Situation gets used all the time in AW to gain the fictional positioning necessary to improve a PC's odds of success in an unlikely act. This seems to be ignored so far in this discussion because it's not the GM setting a difficulty but rather the GM describing the situation and the player essentially lowering the difficulty if they can maneuver themselves into such a way that they can take advantage of it. Honestly, I think this plays a major role in the tactical play of AW.

    I also think that the process of manuvering to take advantage of a situation (whether in the aftermath of a Read move or something else), if the MC is paying attention, often puts a character in a position where they don't really need to roll. I agree that many MCs are loathe to just say something succeeds, but I think that has more to do with gamer baggage than it does with how AW works under ideal circumstances. From my own experience, every time I've said: "Yeah, I don't think that's really a formal move; I think you just do it," I don't think I've once regretted it.

    In general, though, you're mostly right about AW fictional positioning not always changing the odds of a move (with a huge caveat for Read a Charged Situation, Helping, and other such moves), but instead potentially changing what moves you have to make (or if you even have to make moves) and -- more importantly -- the fictional consequences for partial successes and failures. Honestly, in practice, I don't find that much different from sandbox D&D where you try to make the best tactical choices you can. If people are hung up on setting specific difficulties and don't like how Read a Charged Situation handles it, it seems like that probably has to do more with their mechanical preferences and comfort zones than it does with any weakness of the AW engine in handling challenge-based play.
  • edited August 2013
    Indeed. I'm glad Dave posted, because he has a knack for explaining these things a little more clearly than I do (since I feel like I've been saying the same thing all along, but I guess I haven't been clear enough).

    As for Read a Charged Situation, it's a good example of leveraging fictional circumstances for increased chance of success. However, it's not a wide-ranging tool for player-GM negotiation, like the workspace move. (Also, it doesn't exist in WoDu.)

    It's a move that's effective only in certain situations (because there's a limited list of questions you can ask), only sometimes (based on a lucky roll), and only for certain characters (those who have a bad related stat might never succeed, or even bother trying). So it's quite possible to have a number of situations in play where this leverage isn't available to the player at all.

    (At the other end of the spectrum, in some styles of play this move might be too effective: the danger is, instead, that the answers you can get simply by rolling the dice circumvent the kind of challenge you're trying to present. For instance, let'say the challenge at hand is, "There's a huge Piercer hiding in an alcove on the ceiling of this dark chamber. Will the adventurers be smart enough to take precautions so as to discover its presence before it kills one of them?" In OD&D, finding a way to figure out if there's a danger in the darkness above would be quite a challenge. With the Read a Sitch move, all it takes is for someone to get a decent roll and ask, "What should I be on the lookout for?" I don't see this as quite as big a problem, but I can see why some people might.)

    [As a total sidenote, Vincent has always made it clear that the +1 from acting on the answers does not stack. It might not be clear in the book, but that's always been his answer to that question online.]



    EDIT: By the way, the "reading" moves are my absolute favourite part of Apocalypse World! I totally love them, which is why I put three (!) of them in my otherwise-move-less hack The Bureau.
  • I think there's been some disconnect in this thread about fictional vs mechanical risk/reward choices.
    Yes, absolutely. Most of the challenge- in AW challenge-based play does not involve dice. It isn't about manipulating numbers, or 'odds of success' in a specific mechanical sense. It's about gathering a sufficient understanding of the fiction so as to open up possibilities for tactical actions that weren't otherwise available, and maximizing the positive consequences from the rolls you do have to make.

    Which confuses me because while I haven't played any/much OD&D, this was always exactly what I thought the whole OSR-style dungeon crawl was about as well. You use your ten-foot pole so you don't have to roll the dice; you describe your perfect unexpected plan so you don't have to fight the goblins; you fictionally-optimize the ever-loving crap out of your actions, because otherwise the dice will punish you (often arbitrarily/fatally/intensely.)

    This is why I asked about what tools OD&D provided that WoDu-type games did not. I am surprised to hear that the answer is 'the ability to set a random difficulty for anything and then roll it' -- not because I don't see how that's something AW-type games don't provide, but because I didn't realize that was a major tool for the OD&D GM.

  • edited August 2013
    IceCreamEmperor,

    That's why I asked, way upthread, whether people AW/WoDu play in this style turns into a lot of people trying to avoid rolling the dice (as in certain types of OD&D play). Apparently not!

    (Also, the "set a probability and roll" is just one of a range of tools in that tradition of play. There are others; we've already discussed some of them.)
  • No, it totally does. Avoiding die-rolling in WoDu is totally a thing, at least in my experience.

    Somewhat less so in AW, I think, because -- at least in my experience -- the game is less about the struggle to survive (there's not a lot of pressure-filled rules involving resource-consumption, for example) and more about experiencing what there is to experience of this messed-up world. A lot of times folks treat their PCs "like stolen cars" (to borrow one of Joe's phrases) and aren't as concerned with maximizing their chances of success or personal betterment. That said, if you're trying to do something that's really dangerous, I have seen players try to avoid making a bunch of critical rolls (because of the likelihood of something going wrong) and manuevering to just make 1 crucial roll or not having to roll at all.
  • P.S. Also totally on the same page as Big Dan Wood, no surprise.
  • edited August 2013
    I guess my concern is that there's no modeling of difficulty. And maybe that's just me failing to fully adopt the AW Newthink.

    Let's say you get into a bad gunfight. You want to run away. It's probably Act under Fire. (Forgive me if I use the wrong moves; it's been a year since I played AW.) My worry is that as long as you can narrate some kind of plausible "run away," it's the same roll. It doesn't matter how awesome your plan for running away is. Act under Fire. Where's the challenge there?
    This is such a common misconception, but there's no need for it to remain that way. Seriously, go back and read some of John Harper's posts; he's clarified this so many times. Difficulty is absolutely modeled in AW, it's just not given mechanical modifiers. Like, it's not just the roll: you get better results from your roll with a better position.

    Here's yet another super oversimplified example:
    Character with bad positioning:"I'm totally surrounded by blazing gunfire and have no cover or safe route! I'm screwed! I want to run away!"
    MC: "Sure, but like you said, you're screwed. You'll take a bullet no matter what, Act Under Fire to see if you can even make it out alive."
    Character with good positioning: "I want out of this gunfight! Good thing I'm behind cover with an established escape route!"
    MC: "Yup, that's good for you. Act Under Fire to see if they notice your escape."
    Yes, it's the same roll. No, it's not the same difficulty. Your fictional position means everything, it basically sets the stakes for what 'danger' you're even facing. Every time a character is trying to avoid danger, the MC is supposed to ask themselves, "what could go wrong here?" If the character has set themselves up so that very little can go wrong, then the 'Fire' in Act Under Fire will be very different.
  • edited August 2013
    You use your ten-foot pole so you don't have to roll the dice; you describe your perfect unexpected plan so you don't have to fight the goblins; you fictionally-optimize the ever-loving crap out of your actions, because otherwise the dice will punish you (often arbitrarily/fatally/intensely.)

    This is why I asked about what tools OD&D provided that WoDu-type games did not. I am surprised to hear that the answer is 'the ability to set a random difficulty for anything and then roll it' -- not because I don't see how that's something AW-type games don't provide, but because I didn't realize that was a major tool for the OD&D GM.
    You are confused because your initial thoughts are correct. The OSR people avoid rolling by manipulating the fiction with their character.

    There is no "random difficulty" in OD&D... so that super-really confuses the heck outa me too!

    "set a probability and roll"
    Does not exist in OD&D.
  • edited August 2013
    "Reading a situation" is one of the most common challenges in old school play. In AW, this challenge is removed from the players and undertaken by the characters, with utility divorced from cleverness. Applying the useful info gleaned from a successful Read to a subsequent roll is not a challenge, in my experience. Either it's easy and obvious to apply, or impossible to apply. Some old school DMs have mastered the ability of dropping factoids that the players might or might not be able to exploit. In AW, being able to ask the MC "which enemy is most vulnerable to me?" and get an honest answer short-circuits that challenge.

    It is pretty sweet that in AW you don't have to worry as much about GMs being shifty or failing to communicate what they intend! Being obligated to answer those Read questions is very useful, and way better than a bad old-school GM. But it can also eliminate the need for players to scheme. I mean, "what should I be on the lookout for?" Are you kidding me? In my preferred play style, I need to tell you what I'm on the lookout for -- that's how I'm being clever! If you just tell me, and then I do it, that's my character being clever, not me.

    So it's not just about target numbers here. It's about AW enabling groups to not sweat a variety of stuff that they do sweat in OD&D. Of course AW doesn't force you to not sweat that stuff. You can describe and negotiate and describe and negotiate until you don't need a roll, just like any other RPG. It simply strikes me as a counter-intuitive way to play AW, that's all. The games gives you way quicker and easier alternatives. OD&D doesn't.

    When I played AW, my Hocus advanced like crazy (folks wanted to see me do the stuff that made my guy who he was, thus I got XP every time I rolled), and was soon rolling at +3 for nearly everything he cared to do. Die rolls were not something to avoid, they were something to pursue for achievements I couldn't otherwise get just by being clever. "I can coast and roll dice and then figure out how to milk my 10+; strategy not required." To point out that I could strategize anyway sounds kinda "design doesn't matter" to me.

    To all the folks out there who are strategizing their way out of rolling AW dice, hey, sounds fun to me, but why are you using the AW rules then? Play it freeform!
  • edited August 2013
    This is why I asked about what tools OD&D provided that WoDu-type games did not. I am surprised to hear that the answer is 'the ability to set a random difficulty for anything and then roll it'
    Who said "random"? I never said "random". "Carefully calibrated to make for interesting challenges and decisions": that's what I was talking about. Hill vs mountain was simply easier to describe than Mindflayer vs Bugbear. I can describe how the different stats of Mindflayers and Bugbears make that a comparable situation of strategic probability comparison, but I worry that that's either obvious or incomprehensible depending on the reader's background.
    The OSR people avoid rolling by manipulating the fiction with their character.
    Yes. Until they opt into danger for reward. "We could flee the Mindflayer, but I want the loot behind it, so let's fight!" is a decision to embrace some rolling. And that decision is based on some knowledge about the rolls, and some sense of how they compare to other options.

  • "set a probability and roll"
    Does not exist in OD&D.
    What? I quoted it directly from the Holmes text.

    Anyway, you've really never seen this? Examples:

    "Ok, the magical guided arrow zooms around the corner, seeking another target... you three are in the room, Arwen is just outside the door. Who does it decide to pursue? Probably not Arwen, since it couldn't 'see' her from where it's coming around the corner. How about we roll a d6, 1-2 it's you, 3-4 it's you, and 5-6 it's you? Sounds fair enough? Let's do it."

    "At the bottom of the cliff you find the gear you dropped the previous day. Some animals came through and ate or stole all the food. Oh, you're looking for the 12 torches you had in your packs? Well, the packs weren't tied or anything, so probably some of them would have fallen out on the way down and ended up in the river. Maybe even most of them. Here, I'll roll 2d4 to see how many of them you can recover."

    Some of these rules were codified, as well - like Wandering Monsters rolls or Resurrection Percentage Chance rules. I've pretty much always seen them in action in most old-school D&D I've played, unless it was a game with a very different focus.


    (Dave, right on. I'm with you there. And goes hand-in-hand with the way the AW conversation works, as well. Consider my examples in this post, above: the tool AW gives you to deal with this kind of thing is the MC moves - arbitrated by the Principles, of course. Instead of trying to find a fair way to decide who is the target of the arrow, for instance, the MC is directed to be a fan of the players and to make a move, which could range from "offer an opportunity" to "inflict harm". A move like "put someone in a spot" is designed to create a challenging situation, not to offer a balanced challenge to a united group in a way that's fair and takes into account minor differences in fictional positioning.)

  • edited August 2013
    Okay. That has nothing to do with "challenges", but I see. Don't get how it connects to the OP, but I see. You are just talking about the occasional random: "is it raining today? Lets roll 1d6 and on a 5-6 it is" or "how many bandit raiders are there?" or "is there a Wanding Monster?" or "is this a stupid example roll 1d6 and on a 1-6 it is" stuff. Meh. Whatever. I don't see any real problem with that and it certainly has nothing to do with challenging gameplay.

    Does that actually make you think Dungeon World or World of Dungeons can't give challenges? Or that OD&D does challenge because of the occasional random roll for the occasional, luck based, random things?

    I had thought you meant "the difficulty is 30 so roll and try to get a 30" or "roll 1d6 and on a 2-6 the ceiling falls on you and you die". OD&D doesn't do that -- unless you are talking about Armor Class I guess. But again that doesn't really have anything to do with challenging the player. Meh.

    I think I lost this conversation and John Harper posted what I was talking about of Google+ anyway.

    Maybe a better question to you would be "in what way do you think WoDu or DW don't challenge the player?". Because there have already been plenty of examples on that.
  • edited August 2013
    Hey, maybe we've been using too many made-up examples and a real one would help.

    My Telvar OD&D party fought a Grey Philosopher a few years back. It attacked us with strands of evil which were very damaging. Also, some skeletons were attacking from the rear. Also, the Philosopher had shown some images about a fleet being hired by the city to defend it, then turning around and sacking it. Our group had 6 PCs who were still alive at this point. We each got one action per round, and this combat probably lasted about 8 rounds. So that's about 50 actions until we wound up turning and running to avoid a TPK. Here are the choices we had to consider when budgeting those 50 actions:
    - Attack the damaging strands. Remove the most immediate and severe threat, temporarily, before they come back.
    - Damage the Philosopher. Clearly needs to be done at some point, but given scant evidence of what attacks wound him, should we leave it to the guy with the +2 sword only? Or should we all pile on to whittle down his massive hit points?
    - Stop the Philosopher by means other than damage. Web, sleep, etc. -- do we have anything that would work?
    - Talk to the Philosopher. We know Grey Philosophers are stuck on some question, and we have some guesses as to what it might be. Could we answer it for him by offering to fight the traitorous fleet? Talking is slow, though, as rounds are measured in 1-2 seconds, so that risks wasting a ton of actions.
    - Use our most prized magic item, a one-use scroll that summons a small group of undead warriors for one endeavor. Is this what we want to use it on?
    - Heal each other to keep the fight going.
    - Chug limited healing potions.
    - Pick up the bodies of the fallen so they won't be left behind if we must retreat.
    - Point the guys with bludgeoning weapons at the skeletons, as swords and arrows probably won't work.
    - Fight on so as to capitalize on the progress we've made, or flee now to defray resurrection costs of further losses.

    Dealing with situations like this was kind of the point of the game. I can't imagine facing a similar game situation (as opposed to fictional situation -- I'm talking about budgeting actions and HP and gold, not fighting monsters) in AW.

    @Irminsul, if you read my post just above Paul's, I think that may be more pertinent. Agreed, rolling for rain is irrelevant.
  • edited August 2013
    Here's another* good example, actually:

    Lately, I've been really enjoying this Actual Play thread about an old-school (Basic) D&D game featuring a group of characters from the Lord of the Rings books, who Elrond sends into dungeons in order to "level up" enough to finally take on the mission of delivering the One Ring to Mordor. It's pretty brilliant, and makes me want to try the same thing sometime.

    At one point, Saruman (one of the PCs) charms an Ogre they encounter, and the Ogre, instead of attacking them, starts traveling with the group. This is a good thing, because this Ogre would probably have killed many (or even all of them), being significantly bigger and stronger: a real menace. Having the Ogre along as a sort of "henchman" allows the group to survive all kinds of situations. But the problem is: if the Charm ever wears off (which could also happen if Saruman is killed), the Ogre will probably start slaughtering them. So it's a dangerous situation! They're walking around with a time bomb, essentially.

    So how do we decide when the Ogre snaps out of the Charm and goes ballistic on his mind-controlling captors?

    From what I know of Apocalypse World, my approach as the MC would be to:

    a) Follow the guidelines of the fiction established (if there are any significant precedents to what snaps someone out of a Charmed state, how long it typically lasts, and stuff like that - if Charm is something that operates on a scale of weeks, I'm not going to have the Ogre snap out of it 2 minutes later, and so on).

    b) Keep the Principles in mind. "Being a fan of the characters" means, among other things, that I probably won't have the Ogre snap out of the Charm and start killing them in their sleep unless I can get some kind of exciting scene out of it, and present it with softer moves first, so they have a chance to react.

    c) Pick a moment which is fictionally believable/consistent, in accordance with my Principles, and the timing is right in terms of dramatic coordination (Eero's excellent term - who's there, what's happening, what's at stake, etc). When and if it's my turn to make a move**, if it feels right, I'll put this into action, hoping for a moment of maximum impact. If it's in reaction to something a PC does, all the better ("an opportunity on a golden plate"). I'll probably use softer moves first to set it up, as well.

    This group (playing B/X D&D) has a different approach, and one that's pretty exactly by-the-book:

    a) Establish the possible duration of the Charm spell (it's in the spell description, in this case) and have the GM secretly roll the exact duration. Now it's set, but the players don't know how long it will last. However, they know the possible range (whether it's 3d6 days or whatever), so they can make an informed decision about how much they're willing to risk before they get rid of the Ogre one way or another.

    b) The DM also explicitly outlines how he will handle other situations, such as how he will deal with a lapse in the Charm (quoted below) or situations where the Ogre is asked to do certain dangerous tasks (the Ogre gets an additional saving throw against the spell). This is an arbitrary ruling at first ("GM fiat", etc, etc) but consistent once it's settled in play as the principled way to handle this kind of situation, and the players can count on that going forward.
    If we had a situation where the ogre broke the charm--and Eowyn could speak either chaotic or ogre--and Eowyn did something like stepping forward and trying to talk the ogre down, I would likely handle it this way:

    1: Ogre starts in hostile disposition on the reaction table.
    2: Eowyn rolls + charisma modifier.
    3: on a leave result, ogre leaves but will consider Fellowship enemy and will attack if he sees them again. A friendly result would allow him to part on friendly terms, but he would likely not volunteer to join the group.

    Eowyn doesn't speak either of these languages, but if the ogre stays with them much longer, I'm going to assume they have picked up enough ogre words for very basic communication.
    So it seems to me that these are dramatically different approaches, and this example illustrates that pretty well. They're suited to completely different types of gaming, with completely different agendas.

    Is there a way to use the AW/WoDu rules in a way that the D&D group I'm quoting here would find satisfactory? If so, how?

    Or is "Gamist WoDu/AW" play just a completely different beast, needing different tools and different principles? If so, what's that like?


    *: Cross-posted with the above couple of posts.

    **: This part is absolutely key, as well. If it so happens that I, as the MC, don't get a chance to make a move about this during a given scene, then the Ogre's charm will effectively "last longer". That's not necessarily about how clever the players are being, but about the rate of dialogue around the table and what we're choosing to focus on at any given time.
  • edited August 2013
    @David_Berg Thanks for the example, I think it is helpful. Yep, I see that! And I agree that Apocalypse World, in particular, doesn’t really fit a lot of the time for the reasons you give. Particularly in that specific situation. And upthread I also said AW doesn’t really work when compared to OD&D because of the focus on other things like sex and messing with other player’s rolls and whatnot.

    The times I‘ve played AW we weren‘t really even a group. Not in the OD&D sense of the word anyway. We happened to be in the same area. Maybe had sex or other relations, helped or hindered each other for short times, but we certainly didn‘t OD&D “adventure“ together. Not in any AW games I‘ve been in anyway. Not to mention that a single hit generally takes out any NPC, so yeah, your example can’t really happen in AW.

    So we agree there 100% that your example would not work in Apocalypse World. So “is AW suited to challenge play?” - I wouldn’t say it is optimal for it in an OSR way. But I still think that it can be played in a similar fashion: fiction first is very much an OD&D thing too. And I still think the players can be challenged in AW with difficult choices. Maybe even a trap or similar. Heck I think Vincent’s examples in the book demonstrate how the players are being challenged and making hard choices based on the fiction (the one at the beginning of the “Moves Snowball” section).

    However I do think that all of those things in your example could happen in Dungeon World or World of Dungeons. The (in)famous DW dragon example would be another. Those games do have expendable items and magic swords and magic spells and hit points and et cetera.

    I dunno, maybe I’m missing something here?

    Maybe my definition of “challenge the players” is different than what you all are saying? Are we just talking about combat challenge? [Tangent: for example, when I challenge a players Beliefs in Burning Wheel I’d count that too.]
    @Irminsul, if you read my post just above Paul's, I think that may be more pertinent. Agreed, rolling for rain is irrelevant.
    Agreed!



    @Paul_T thing is: I think all of those things could happen in DW or WoDu as well though. Really it is up to the MC/DM/GM judgment and the rules. And again if we are only talking about Apocalypse World and not DW… well, there is no charm spell, so I’m not even sure how we’d talk about it.

    Dungon World has:

    Charm Person Level 1 Enchantment
    The person (not beast or monster) you touch while casting
    this spell counts you as a friend until they take damage or
    you prove otherwise.

    I’m not seeing where the MC/GM decides “based on what is best for the story or is the most exciting thing to do” in the spell description. I dunno, there are concrete rules in DW (and AW) too. *shrug*
    Is there a way to use the AW/WoDu rules in a way that the D&D group I'm quoting here would find satisfactory? If so, how?
    Good question! So Mailer said:

    1: Ogre starts in hostile disposition on the reaction table.
    2: Eowyn rolls + charisma modifier.
    3: On a leave result, ogre leaves but will consider Fellowship enemy and will attack if he sees them again. A friendly result would allow him to part on friendly terms, but he would likely not volunteer to join the group.

    I’d say: Eowyn rolls +cha for “Parley”, yeah? With the leverage possibly being, “if you leave we won’t cast Charm on you again” or whatever else the group has in their pockets and what they are hoping to get from the ogre.
  • edited August 2013
    However I do think that all of those things in your example could happen in Dungeon World or World of Dungeons. The (in)famous DW dragon example would be another. Those games do have expendable items and magic swords and magic spells and hit points and et cetera.
    Cool! I have never played World of Dungeons, and only a very fast-paced convention one-shot of Dungeon World. I'd definitely be interested to hear how those games compare to OD&D. (Apologies if someone has already done that in this thread and I missed it!)
  • Yes, same here. That's a good direction for this thread. (Yeah, we've touched on it a little - mostly, Johnstone has - but hardly reached the end of that branch.)

    Irminsul,

    If I understand your last post correctly, it sounds like you're confusing the fictional transcript of play (what happened in the story) with the player's perspective: what decisions are made and what values are considered as those events occur. This is what Dave has been talking about throughout: "However I do think that all of those things in your example could happen in Dungeon World or World of Dungeons." Sure, they could. They could also happen in a game of Primetime Adventures. But the way in which the player interacts with them is quite different in each of those scenarios: that's what I'm here to discuss. (I hope that helps!)
  • edited August 2013
    I dunno. My overwhelming feeling here is that people are operating under a limited interpretation of what it means to face challenges as a player, and how a game could be oriented around that goal.

    For example, the idea that play can only have this goal if it is pursued rigorously or with meticulous tactical and strategic forethought on the part of the players seems unlikely to me. It seems to me that even if I don't want to map the dungeon square by square, or calculate the exact odds of risk vs. the exact odds of reward, I can still be primarily interested in dealing with challenges as presented in the fiction. I can have a limited set of tools and still be challenged by trying to use those tools for the best possible outcome.

    Now there is still the question of whether AW is 'suited' or not, I guess. It seems to be it is better-suited to a form of challenge-based play that adopts a wider scope than a typical dungeon crawl (though we already have had several people specifically explain that they have used AW or AW-based games precisely for dungeon crawl style play.)

    But really, AW is a game not about achievements but about consequences. And adjucating and communicating those consequences is largely in the hands of the MC, supported by an impressive infrastructure of Principles, Agendas, Fronts, etc. It seems self-evident that you can have a challenge-based game where the characters always succeed at their immediate actions; the challenge simply shifts elsewhere, to what sort of actions they choose to undertake, and in what contexts they choose to undertake them. IMO AW is exceptionally suitable to this sort of play, though it usually introduces these sorts of challenges with different overall goals in mind.
  • Yeah, "challenge" definitely needs further specifying. I suspect that's happened somewhere in here, but it's hard to keep track.

    On the one hand, there's the sense in which all roleplay is challenging. Beyond that, there's drama: in AW, I'm constantly challenged to explore and express my character and decide how he'd respond to various challenging situations. And then all the way at the far end, there's pure tactical play. I don't find dramatic AW play and highly tactical play to be remotely similar, but I guess there might be some place in the middle where play is a bit of one and a bit of the other.

    Anyway, when I say "challenge-based play" I mean play that is more about tactics than it is about other stuff (including other types of challenge). Details of rigorous meticulousness (as well as info, luck, crunch, etc.) will vary.

  • Right, sure, but there is a difference between a typical D&D challenge like 'get past the goblin guards and loot the treasure' and a challenge like 'bring peace to the Death Valley Mines' or 'undermine the authority of the YOLO cult'. Just because the scope widens doesn't mean the challenge can't still be the focus, or that play stops being tactical/strategic. The scope at which AW naturally operates is more suited to mid-scale, consequence-based challenges than immediate-scale, achievement-based challenges; but surely both are valid modes of challenge-based play?
  • edited August 2013
    I wonder what you (Paul, David) think of the "free" (as opposed to "rigid") mode of classic Prussian officer training games (kriegsspiel). The rigid version of the game used dice to introduce random results to represent friction on the battlefield, and used fixed movement rates, static resolution rules, etc. But the "free" game mode replaced the dice with a referee (the 'confidant') who adjudicated all the results via principled decisions (based on his training and battlefield experience).

    I doubt you would argue that the "free" mode of kriegsspiel is not a challenge-based game. Similar games are still used today by the military and private sector for simulation purposes, leveraging the judgment, insight, experience, and principles of a human referee to accommodate hugely complex tactical scenarios that would be overly time-consuming to automate.

    (Indeed, the genesis of D&D itself follows the same path, from rigid tabletop wargame with no referee, to a DM-adjudicated game relying on human judgment and interpretation. Did D&D become a 'worse' challenge-based game when it evolved from Chainmail and introduced DM judgment? Of course not.)

    I'm not saying that AW is a free-form game (obviously, it's not). I'm saying that, even purely free-form games -- that lack any of the features you're insisting upon -- are used extensively for both hardcore simulation and tactical challenge-based play. The core AW engine*, with its focus on fictional states and consequences and its robust support for a principled referee, is also perfectly suited to this kind of play.

    *Not to be confused with default Apocalypse World play, which, we've all agreed does NOT focus on tactics. We're talking about using the AW-engine to play a tactically-focused game. I hope it's beginning to become apparent how it's not only possible to do this, but in some ways, for some players, it's preferable. Yes? Good.
  • IceCreamEmperor,

    I agree that "undermine the authority of the YOLO cult" is a totally valid type of challenge. However, it seems to me that in the AW engine, the resolution of this challenge is basically up to the MC. This makes it difficult to treat it with a truly competitive spirit: but certainly challenge for both the character and player are present.

    John,

    I'm totally with you on that, and it's a very interesting analogue for this discussion. I feel that it's actually key to this whole discussion. In a kriegspiel, there is a human referee who rules on the outcomes of various situations, which means that, instead of challenging the player to use the rules system to its utmost degree, the player is testing his wits against his opponent while the referee uses his experience to create fair and "realistic" outcomes.

    However, note that here the referee is not the opponent. I think that if the referee was also the opponent (i.e. controlled the enemy's moves), we'd have a game that was still challenging for the player, but in a very different way: the referee can't meaningfully compete with the player, but rather makes simu-challenges and tries to the player that way. Ultimately, the combined referee/opponent decides how things turn out, whether in obvious, large-scale ways, or through a sequence of small, reasonable decisions.

    AW, to me, is more like the latter (where the referee and the opponent are one and the same), whereas "old-school D&D" is more like the kriegspiel, since it goes to great lengths to create objective levels of opposition (through modules/dungeons, random tables, and various methods or arbitrating outcomes), with the ideal intent of play being that the DM *only* has to arbitrate and adjudicate (i.e. referee), but not actually compete or create challenge for the players.

    As a simple example, if in an OD&D game the party comes up with a clever plan which bypasses every possible danger, they automatically succeed and reach the appropriate rewards. In a game of AW, however, the MC is instructed to keep making moves, regardless of what the fictional situation is. (Certainly the fictional positioning influences which moves are available and how hard they can be, but they're never going to disappear altogether in any form of AW play I've seen.)

    Are we getting closer to being on the same page, or further apart? :)

    It's notable that I think *most* RPG play is more like the latter: not a true competition, but a simulacrum thereof. I find the AW framework skews towards this end, at least in my experience. I'm very open, though, to hearing good ways to change that tendency through various types of principled play, and we've already discussed a number in this thread, which has been awesome.
  • Here are my thoughts on the most recent topics:

    1) Principled freeform can be used for challenges.

    2) Crunchy systems can also be used for challenges.

    3) At challenge time, specific AW Moves and Principles get in the way of my freeform without providing me the benefits of crunch.

    4) "The core AW engine" is not defined specifically enough in this thread to distinguish it from (a) the basic foundation of fiction focus and ref support that is decades old and for which an "AW" label is disingenuous, or (b) the bulk of AW, including some of the Moves and Principles I find unsuitable.

    Accordingly, it is impossible for me to say, or to know what anyone else means when they say, "the core AW engine supports challenge-based play". That could mean little and be obvious, or it could mean much and I'd disagree.

    I would guess that "core engine" is both useless and needless terminology in this discussion. We have the option to talk about specifics from actual games and actual play.

    5) Details regarding which AW attributes get you which benefits in challenge-based play -- this is what I find most interesting at the moment. Here are some I can think of:

    - The style of presenting principles makes them easier to find and remember than traditional texts.

    - A dice mechanic that's trivial to remember and easy to calculate minimizes the intrusion into the fiction.

    - When someone is stumped for what should happen, the chance to pick from a list is a nice option.
  • So there are signs/rules and ways in which they are interpreted (lets call that hermeneutics). Rules are a material, and as a material they have an inherent spin on how they progress/develop (known as "system matters"(sic)): that is why we ... um sorry ... I call a constellation of rules an "engine" - it is an impersonal instance that can be relied upon to drive play.

    I can see how a certain hermeneutic of AW finds it very hard to understand how fictional positioning does not automatically entail player-centered drama, or even how rules can be there to facilitate rather than "intrude on" the fiction.
    What puzzles me is that in this hermeneutic there seems to be a need for long discussion if other hermeneutics of certain materials are valid.

    Certainly the upside of this thread is that it shows how principles, more than a kind of GM advice, can be used as a tool to make the interpretation used for an engine explicit.

    My own hermeneutic is as limited as anyone's, but makes it easy to extract abstract features of an engine, giving me pattern languages to improvise over.

    Musically speaking, I am interested in jazz: fusion & bebop. Other here hail from modernism and seem puzzled about how an instrument developed by an modernist composer could be used in mainstream pop.

    # # #

    On the question whether its easier to use the AW instrument for modernism than baroque style I probably concur with those who think modernistic style is easier, but again that is probably because there is more "sheet music" for that style.

    Even if there is more effort involved, it might be worth it, because for me opens up technical and terminological possibilities.
  • You know, one way I've been thinking about this whole discussion is to consider game design in terms of what decisions it hands to the players, and at what points during the process.

    In good game design, the decisions are easy and intuitive, and don't involve mental gymnastics (like trying to appear impartial when you actually have a stake in one side over another, or to value two different options equally when you know one is better than the other, etc). In bad game design, the decisions are difficult or awkward: for instance, if I make you decide between rolling X number of dice or drawing cards from a deck, and there's no clear way to choose which is more suitable, but something important in the fiction depends on the decision.

    Of course, this conversation is made quite difficult when we haven't defined our terms exactly: what is "the AW engine", what is "challenge-based play", and where do they intersect? What kinds of things do we want to challenge, and how?

    One thing I keep running into is the AW MC's directive to "make moves" whenever it's her turn to talk. This is a bit of a problem for a player who is a) thinking primarily from a fiction-first perspective, and b) wants to minimize his exposure to risk. These two things don't go together well, and likely contradict each other. Maybe fictionally the smart thing to do is to sit in the middle of the corridor and wait. But now the MC has no clear way of handling the outcome: does she follow the flow of the game (and make a move), or does she reward the smart choice by having nothing (bad) happen?

    Perhaps the kriegspiel comparison is also apt here: is the referee's job to always adjudicate in favour of the most likely result? (For instance, to consider the most likely outcome and skew towards that, aiming to get as close as possible to "realistic"? e.g An army which outnumbers their enemies and has a better position should always win.) Or is the referee's job to re-create the chaos and unpredictability of warfare, to challenge the players to react to unexpected results? (Sometimes even the cleverest plan goes South because someone screwed something up, or the weather changed all of a sudden, or someone got lucky: what are you going to do now?)

    There's a lot of room here for different approaches. I'm mostly curious to hear about *yours* (dear reader), how it works and why it works.
  • @Paul_T
    I don't mean this in a mean or snarky way.

    Either I don't understand how you MC AW (like we come from very different playstyles :) ) and/or you don't understand the MC roles in AW.

    I'd like to help answer these things but between you and David_Berg things are so far away from where my brain is. I've spent awhile reading and re-reading the threads in here and I am not sure I can help out at all.

    So I am going to bow out here!

    I am still up for some WoDu over hangouts!!!

  • The MC making "moves" is not contrary to fiction-first play, nor mitigating player/ character risk. Far from it. The MC is instructed to always choose a move that flows from the fiction, in fact. Some of the moves are clearly less threatening: foreshadowing a future danger, for example.

    If the player, engaging the fiction and not the dice, has avoided a risky course, then the MC is kinda obligated to choose a move that doesn't deal damage or immediately harm the character. That's how it works! If the player's totally fool-proof plan goes off without a roll, and everyone looks to the MC, then the MC looks at those moves and chooses only from applicable ones. In this case, the applicable ones are much more desirable to the character. Ta-da! Risk mitigated, right?
  • Like, in your example of "waiting in the corridor," the MC probably Foreshadows Danger: "you hear the guards discussing their plan to ambush you." And the MC has followed their move structure and stayed loyal to the narrative, all while rewarding the player's wise hesitation. I don't see the contradictory goals, except when an MC has mistaken their duties or chosen a fictionally inappropriate move, both of which are warned about in the game text, right?
  • Hey, I'm not saying that the MC should disregard the fiction entirely and just have random bad stuff happen. Not at all. My point is that the AW engine is finely-tuned to a specific type of play, and a large part of is the whole "moves snowball" and "interesting stuff keeps happening" angle. Whereas, in a pure Gamist kind of dungeon crawl, I think the possibility of "nothing happening" should be there, just as the possibility of a total instant TPK. It shouldn't be biased towards one or the other. I'm not sure how to meaningfully separate "make the PCs' lives interesting" from "adjudicate fairly" in this context. Yes, it's a thin, blurry line, but I do think it's there.
  • edited August 2013
    Gotcha. I guess I can see that, now: that a principle like Fill Their Lives With Adventure might be construed like that. For sure. But again, we don't have a definition of the AW "engine" in this context: I don't think the engine itself includes specific MC Principles, just the idea that there will be Principles. I think writing an appropriate list of them would lead to exacting, strategic play. It's all in those Principles.

    Edit: something like "Maintain the integrity of your world," "Reward strategic thinking" would drastically change the game from "make their lives interesting"
  • edited August 2013
    double post

  • edited August 2013
    Sitting around can still happen in AW. The group just fast-forwards past all of that stuff. I mean, even in Apocalypse World it isn’t like stuff is happening to the characters ALL THE TIME! Like they can’t even take a shit without Doghead busting in and trying to kill them or Honda trying to steal their shit while their shitting or sleeping or fucking. Right? I mean off-screen the player characters actually get to eat without being shot at. Right?

    The MC isn't literally making every-single-second of every-single-day EXCITING! We just focus on the parts that are exciting and fast-forward past the rest of the boring stuff. Yeah?

    So we fast-forward past the group just sitting around, and being safe, and the GM decides/adjudicates, “hey now would be a great time to throw in a Wandering Monster“. Or maybe even makes a custom Move for this. Then she rolls to see what monster it is (or even just decides) and says, “after a bit… [monster shows up]”. Soft Move initiated.

    The group still gets to decide how they react. The group is still being challenged. The GM still adjudicating fairly.

    And in practically the same way as in OD&D too. I mean behind the screen of an OD&D DM there would be a roll every _blank_ Turns (dependant on the Dungeon, location in the dungeon, light sources, noise levels, and whatever else the DM wants to put in there in their individual ruling as to what is fair) to see if a monster shows up. But I think it would be fine to just say one shows up because the group is sitting around for a while.

    In fact this is one of the many things that made OD&D dungeons raids and not crawls -- if the group sat around they would just end up fighting a series of monsters and never getting any real loot (ie. experience points).

    The resource management thing that David Berg brought up was good. Apocalypse World itself doesn’t work like that really. But Dungeon World has resources to be spent: potions, hit points, gear, spells, whatever. And World of Dungeons being pretty much a blank slate can certainly do all of that! (Tactics = 5' square movement to me, but resource management I get).

    I’m getting a wee bit frustrated because it feels like you *Paul_T* have an agenda that is something like:
    “I will disprove that games that use the AW engine can be used for challenge-based-play”.
    Somewhat proven by the electronic high-fives you’ve given people that support your (seeming) agenda/view. I could VERY well be wrong. Perceptions being personal and through the eye of the beholder and all.

    I came here to help. Not to defend.

  • edited August 2013
    I'd like to underline what @Scrape said about principles. They're different in each incarnation of an AW-engine game. (Same goes for the GM moves.) A challenge-based game would have new principles, too, of course -- like "respect tactical thinking", etc.
    As a simple example, if in an OD&D game the party comes up with a clever plan which bypasses every possible danger, they automatically succeed and reach the appropriate rewards. In a game of AW, however, the MC is instructed to keep making moves, regardless of what the fictional situation is. (Certainly the fictional positioning influences which moves are available and how hard they can be, but they're never going to disappear altogether in any form of AW play I've seen.)
    @Scrape already addressed this, but I will, too. Your AW example is not how I understand the game to work. Especially this -- "the MC is instructed to keep making moves, regardless of what the fictional situation is" -- totally not an AW rule; the opposite is true, in fact.

    I think you think that the things you do when you run OD&D aren't "gm moves." But they totally are. They're just from a somewhat different list. Hell, it isn't actually very different. Let's see.

    The thief says she'll wait in the corridor while the goblins fight each other inside the room. Sounds smart! What does the GM say?
    1. "Okay. If you wait for a whole turn, I'll roll another wandering monster check. Still want to do it? Okay." (tell them the possible consequences and ask + use a location move)

    2. "If you stand in the corridor, you aren't concealed. Want to look for a better spot?" (tell them the possible consequences and ask + give an opportunity that fits a class ability)

    3. "You wait. You can hear them arguing inside, then loud crashing, then everything goes quiet. Seems all clear in there." (offer an opportunity without a cost)

    (those are GM moves from Dungeon World, also using the make a move that follows from the fiction principle, among others)

    In other words, the "GM moves" style of play is a type of description of "the things a GM does," not a separate, incompatible procedure from standard GM play. It's an innovation of notation (IMO) not execution. Everything you say when you run OD&D is a "gm move" based on goals and principles -- we just haven't deconstructed it all into handy lists yet.

    So: "Is AW suited to challenge-based play, if I modify the GM agenda, principles, and moves to suit my particular vision for challenge-based play?" Yes.

    @David_Berg: Number 5 in your list is great to see. I'd add:
    - Challenges don't have to be modeled with stats and numbers (maybe HP for a monster) so they can be very quickly generated on the fly to suit the fictional situation.

    - The lack of mechanical detail for stuff (gear, situational mods, no NPC stats) forces us to evaluate concrete fictional details to determine positioning, range of actions/outcomes. This supports challenge-based play as mastery of tactical thinking rather than mastery of game system choices.
  • Thanks for sticking with me, guys!

    I’m getting a wee bit frustrated because it feels like you *Paul_T* have an agenda that is something like:
    “I will disprove that games that use the AW engine can be used for challenge-based-play”.
    Oh, dear god no! I'd be very happy to be shown otherwise, which is why I've been really enjoying the specific examples of people's play and how it delivered in certain ways (e.g. Johnstone's posts about his crawls - which I'm pretty sure I "high-fived" just as much as anyone else's).

    All I'm really saying is that it looks more difficult... to me. I'm learning a lot as this thread goes along, though, so I hope to feel different by the end of it.

    I think you think that the things you do when you run OD&D aren't "gm moves." But they totally are. They're just from a somewhat different list. Hell, it isn't actually very different.
    Whoa! OK. This one I have to chew on for a while: there's some serious meat there. Juicy meat. Very interesting!

    Consider this a marker of stunned silence!

    [........]

    Dave and John,

    I like your points about the strengths of the AW engine in this context, and I agree in full. John, your two bolded points at the bottom of your posts I agree with very very very wholeheartedly. Yes! A huge advantage here, and a design feature I particularly love (I've used it in many of my designs, as well).

  • I think of Agenda/Principles/Moves kinda like nesting dolls: each list is mostly just a tool to build the previous list. If you've got the entire text memorized and internalized, all you'd need to do is glance at your Agenda now and then, and that'll remind you which Principles to apply here. But of course you haven't memorized everything, so you look at your Principles and those remind me you which Moves you should be using. Let's say you're totally new to this whole gaming thing, though: you're looking at the Moves, which are written to explicitly fulfill your Principles, which are in turn written to fulfill the Agendas.

    That's neat, right? Altering a few things on those lists will totally churn out a very different game. The Moves are probably the most generic and least-altered list, because they're usually just stuff that everyone does already.

    But if you mess around with the lists, it's possible to write up a hack that is all confused because the Moves don't actually enforce the Principles, or the Principles don't enforce the Agenda. That's a serious issue, that's probably a bigger issue than broken math in the system. You can easily kludge a mechanics fix, but recognizing and altering a mistaken Principle/Move during play is hella difficult.

    Here's a weird thing I noticed, from the Lovecraftian horror game and apoc engine hack, tremulus. There's some really interesting ideas in that game, but there's a lot that I don't like, too. For instance, the Keeper has a move: "Let the dice decide. Call for a roll+Luck." Now, that might be just fine as a Move. But... there's totally this Principle: Successes should be bittersweet at best, with rewards few and far between. To me, that doesn't say 'let a luck roll decide.' That Principle tells me exactly what my goddamn answer should be.
  • edited August 2013
    Oh, yeah, good call, Scrape. When I mentioned "style of presenting principles" as an AW contribution, I should have added "style of organizing principles" as well. The hierarchical breakdown of nesting categories is handy.
    if you mess around with the lists, it's possible to write up a hack that is all confused because the Moves don't actually enforce the Principles, or the Principles don't enforce the Agenda. That's a serious issue, that's probably a bigger issue than broken math in the system . . . there's totally this Principle: Successes should be bittersweet at best, with rewards few and far between. To me, that doesn't say 'let a luck roll decide.' That Principle tells me exactly what my goddamn answer should be.
    Great point.

    Aside: this is part of why the term "hack" confuses me for games that truly re-author those connections where one level enforces another. If you nail that, you're doing more than hacking, you're doing fairly bottom-up game design.
  • edited August 2013
    - Challenges don't have to be modeled with stats and numbers (maybe HP for a monster) so they can be very quickly generated on the fly to suit the fictional situation.
    Hmm. This is true, but is there anything we can say about what AW does give you to replace those stats and numbers? A generic list of ways to threaten and inflict consequences on characters, which applies across diverse situations, and is easy to flesh in with appropriate specifics case by case, perhaps? I'm thinking of MC Hard Moves like "separate them".

    I'm actually not sure about this, though. In one situation, "separate them" is not appropriate to what was risked or staked, and is unsatisfying. In another situation, it's obvious that a failed character effort will result in characters being separated, and seeing "separate them" on a list doesn't add anything. Should we focus on the in-between cases?

    Maybe "list of threats & consequences" is off point. Maybe the point is "what attributes do challenges need, if not stats?" In AW, is there a clear answer? I can easily spot a few tools -- make a countdown clock, make a custom move -- that do remind me a little of statting up a simple encounter. Besides those, I guess you have "pick a scarcity" + "pick a threat" + "pick an impulse", which adds up to motive, color, possible action. Does that accurately describe how AW helps us model challenges?
    - The lack of mechanical detail for stuff (gear, situational mods, no NPC stats) forces us to evaluate concrete fictional details to determine positioning, range of actions/outcomes. This supports challenge-based play as mastery of tactical thinking rather than mastery of game system choices.
    Great point about "this ain't system mastery". Again, though, I don't need any help from AW to simply play without mechanical detail. That option's been around forever. What does AW add to it?

    I don't have any answers to this one. (I mean, as its own point, separate from the others. Clearly AW adds other stuff.)

  • Aside: this is part of why the term "hack" confuses me for games that truly re-author those connections where one level enforces another. If you nail that, you're doing more than hacking, you're doing fairly bottom-up game design.
    Eh, this is one of those words which can't really be defined. We could easily make an argument for Apocalypse World, or My Life with Master, or Fiasco, being a "hack" of Dungeons & Dragons. And we could just as easily make an argument for, say, Dungeon World not really being a "hack" of Apocalypse World but being its own game. There's no bottom line for *that* debate!

  • I don't think that MC Moves are necessarily applicable to every situation. I think you've gotta parse the list for what is applicable. And the moves should be different depending on the game. Like, there's totally a game out there where "Separate Them" is just not a move that should be made, y'know? I think that you're right about it being more like "how to model challenges in this particular genre."
  • edited August 2013
    @Paul_T: I'm very happy to provoke the stunned silence. :) Also! You made an excellent point about kriegspiel and head-to-head competition vs. the impartial referee. I have SO MUCH to say on this topic, but it's a tangent, and I'm gonna hold off for now. Just want to pin it so I don't forget.
    is there anything we can say about what AW does give you to replace those stats and numbers? A generic list of ways to threaten and inflict consequences on characters, which applies across diverse situations, and is easy to flesh in with appropriate specifics case by case, perhaps?
    Yes! These are your fronts, threats and threat moves, exactly. In stock Apocalypse World, you have stuff like grotesques, landscapes, warlords, afflictions, etc. These each get a list of impulses to pursue and consequences to inflict, which you tailor to the specific circumstances. In Dungeon World, you have fronts, monsters, and monster moves.
    Again, though, I don't need any help from AW to simply play without mechanical detail. That option's been around forever. What does AW add to it?
    Oh, sorry, I didn't mean that AW provides nothing in this area, I meant that it doesn't have lots of fiddly mechanical details when it comes to gear. It does still have mechanical teeth (including harm values, ranges, and special-effect tags). So it's not free-form, it's just simplified.
  • edited August 2013
    the "GM moves" style of play is a type of description of "the things a GM does," not a separate, incompatible procedure from standard GM play. It's an innovation of notation (IMO) not execution. Everything you say when you run OD&D is a "gm move" based on goals and principles -- we just haven't deconstructed it all into handy lists yet.
    THIS. A thousand times this! In fact, here's my breakdown of the Burning Wheel Adventure Burner into AW-style GM principles and even some player principles.
  • I think pretty much every game would benefit from an Agenda and Principles list. I wouldn't wanna make it trite, but it would really help with many texts that offer a toolkit but not clear structure. Something like Unknown Armies, maybe: I loved reading the book but walked away without a clear idea of how to make those stories happen.

    I like that Burning Wheel writeup! In absence of published agendas, it'd be cool to see write-ups from players and fans for their favorite systems. A lot of people are turning their favorite games into AW hacks (The Sprawl, etc), but I bet just writing the agendas/principles/maybe-even-moves would reinvigorate the old systems in a similar manner.
  • I have this one group that LOVES Call of Cthulhu and I always end up running it. I've hacked away at it for a while and turned it into a player-facing system for ease of use. But sometimes the games would falter, and it's obvious to me now that I needed to write those principles if I really wanted to make it work.
  • edited August 2013
    When I teach combatives, I teach the overall goals of training (agenda), the way we evaluate success of performance and effectiveness of techniques (principles), and the techniques themselves (moves). It's a classic pedagogical model. When Vincent made it explicit in an RPG text, I fell out of my chair laughing with delight.
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