Apocalypse World - a more descriptive/visceral approach to harm



  • Orly,

    The part I'm mostly interested in hearing about is not the "how fragile is human life" bit (that's easy and clear enough), but the "...but not theirs" part.

    How do you that?
  • Oh, it's pretty straight-forward. You just, you know, put NPC in the crosshairs and pull the trigger with the PCs as the gun. You make the PCs easy violent heroism seem petty and monstrous. You make the PCs seem inhuman in their mechanically backed, genre supported armor. Their life isn't fragile because their the reaping whirlwind blowing through everyone else's. I wouldn't do that with just any playbook. Just the fighty ones.

    Unless you think I'm implying something else with that statement or asking a rhetorical question, then I don't understand your point.

    Also, I know this statement is pretty orthogonal to the conversation we're having, but I rarely, rarely try to just deal physical harm as a hard move. I usually try and think about how to make the situation worse, skip sometime or cut to the next significant scene. It's a trick I learned from Vincent and John. Like, if a fight is going really badly for the PCs, instead of trying to kill them or something, you say: "...three days later you wake up chained in the slave-pits. What do you do?"
  • @Orlando_Wilson I like your style though it's pretty different than my typical GM/MC style as I tend to do a bit more cinematic.
  • I find that I want to come to your house and play Apocalypse World with you. (This is directed at all of you. :-)
  • edited December 2012
    I agree! It would be really interesting to just all get together and play. It would clear up a lot!

    Orly, here's what I was asking you about:
    Making AW seems real basically means not making it into an action movie for me.

    If there are guns involved the people die real easy. [...] I mean, what kind of idiot just runs into firing arcs?
    Ok, I follow that. That's my vision of Apocalypse World, too.

    But then:

    Also, note I said people and not the player characters. The PCs have five fucking harm ticks. That's at least two shotgun blasts plus reliable healing either with barter or an Angel. I can't really kill the PCs out-right with guns even if I wanted to.
    However, if someone takes a non-grazing bullet-wound, or has a sucking abdominal chest wound, because of a goddamn harpoon, and that's just the kind of thing that happens in gun battles, it's not a choice to keep fighting. No, your choice at that point is to try to cling to life. Can you hold it together long enough to pour blood-thickener on the wound and seal it or can you even open your belt-pouch with all this blood everywhere?
    From this, I can't really figure out how you're suggesting PCs should be handled. How do you decide when a PC is dead? How do you decide when a PC is hurt and dying, and will expire without help?

    In standard AW, PC death is not an MC choice, period. (You can always take a debility and survive.) I like that effect: it turns death into yet another, "Oh, yeah? How about now? How about now?" choice. It asks, "Is it still worth it for you to keep playing your character even when they...?"

    I really like that effect, which is why I kept it in my hack (one of the design goals was to stay as close as possible to standard AW rules).

    In short, I'm confused how your "AW is deadly, and people die easily" squares with your statement that the PCs lives are not yours to take even if you wanted to.

    (Your comment about making a different harm move - essentially my entry for "you recover, but you find yourself in a tight spot" in the last iteration of Johnstone's "recovery" move - does a lot to answer this question already, but is that the entirety of it? Because that DOES sound very much like an action movie, which you said you don't see AW being very similar to.)

    So, basically, I just want to hear more about how you play AW!
  • edited December 2012
    So, again people =! PCs. I kill NPCs all the time, quickly or slowly. Important, unimportant.

    But actual PC death? I think of it asymptotically. As an MC I escalate towards it constantly, but I can't ever do it unilaterally. Either the mechanics or the PC do it but I never say "you die." And in practice, I don't ever need to. When a PC is bleeding out, the other PCs aren't dicking around. They are trying desperately to keep everyone alive.

    Like, so a PC takes a bullet wound to the chest (2-harm +bleeding-out, 2/6 harm) and is fumbling with the bloodthickener and misses, I say "Okay, mark off the bloodthickener and mark 1-harm (3/6 harm) from blood lost." Inflict harm as established. Without fail that makes the other PCs be all like "OH SHIT IRIS IS DYING WE GOTTA SAVE HER". Sure, Iris is 'only' at 3 harm segments but if no one does anything she's toast. That's telling consequences and asking. I mean, yeah, if they're like "Fuck Iris. We leave her to bleed-out." Iris would either decide to die or mark a debility and crawl back to vengeance. It's out of my hands tho. That's disclaiming. I can, if I want, introduce new fiction to save Iris' bacon. It depends how deus ex I'm feeling and what my fronts are like.

    Anyways, the hacks I'm working on strip out a lot the PC invulnerability and control. My problem with the harm-metre and x-harm isn't that it doesn't work, it's that the fiction is glossed over too often in practice. The same problem you seem to have had. I suspect it's a strange kind of D&D brain-damage via HP.

    Like, you don't really even need a harm-move. Look at my example. Guns inflict gun wounds. Bleeding gets worse undo death. Something needs to happen about that or you die. Just follow the fiction and stay close to the players.

    I'm always, always soliciting feedback during game about what's happening. "Hey, so Iris is dying. How to you feel about that? Those fuckers just left you there, so do you want me to make with the deus ex machina so you can go get them?"

    It's not just about my vision of the game but everyone who's at the table. When I'm a PC vs GM/MC I grind the shit out of my characters. Sometimes, I can see the GM squirming. So, I say "I'm okay with dying here, you know. I know that's on the menu."

    Although this conversation is certainly not over (at least not for me), I'll update the original link with the latest version (just some minor changes).

    Latest Version
  • Orly,

    That's some awesome advice on running AW, all good stuff.

    And you're right that a harm move or harm rules are not necessarily a must.

    But there's a reason to have them, too, and it's for people who don't want to handle character death (or things like debilities) on a purely social level.

    Let's say you have a character who's trapped in a building when it gets bombed or blown up, but he's running for the basement or crouching in some kind of hole or something.

    Sometimes the players will be cool with saying, "Yeah, he's dead." Or maybe, "Okay, let's roll for it!"

    But when the player is clearly invested in this character's story and doesn't want them to die, what does the MC do? You say, on one hand, that you want to "strip out a lot of the invlunerability and control" for PCs, but then you also say (or at least imply) that you would never kill a PC without the player's consent. Isn't that "invulnerability and control", by definition?

    So the rules allow us to have the risk of death (or debilities or whatever) without having to negotiate it all the time (maybe not a big deal for someone like you, who doesn't mind having their character die, but a major sticking point for a LOT of gamers).

    This becomes even more important when we're dealing with PC-against-PC violence. No MC tools (like "just make a different hard move") are going to resolve that issue very smoothly, you either need a set of rules or you need to come to consensus at the table, which some people love and some people consider problematic.

    (On a sidenote, the problem with hit points is not just D&D brain damage. The rules are pretty clear: harm before 9:00 doesn't get worse on its own. If an MC plays the move you suggest in your post -- if you don't stop the bleeding from 2-harm, you'll take more harm -- a player is fairly justified in saying you're playing against the rules.

    This kind of thing, in turn, suggests that AW hit points are like D&D hit points: they have as much to do with luck and script immunity as they have with any kind of actual correspondence to real physical damage to the character. It's also clear in the way the sickly weakling Brainer with -2 Hard--or whatever--gets six segments of harm, just like the Gunlugger or anyone else who is supposed to be badass.)
  • edited December 2012

    So, a couple of things:

    1) You're right about the Harm rules. So, that's me making custom moves (Serious usually wounds always get worse, usually quickly.) There's this tension in AW, where Vincent has these examples where people putting pistols in people's faces but they can pretty much just walk that shit off by the rules.

    2) Yeah, so with the consent thing. The MCs principles are the rules too. And also, that consent is like metathing I bring to all games. I always need consent, all the time, in everything I do with other human beings. Otherwise I'm a petty fascist. The text of a game isn't something I use to coerce people into indulging my own vision and control. However, it does heavily establish the grounds and expectations of people playing the game.

    A game does needs rules and guidelines for that sort of thing. I agree with you there.

    3) So, people being precious with their characters. Not really interested in it nor do I care to design for them. Like with sex and sexuality in AW and MH, if that's a deal-breaker for someone, then don't play the game.

    4)For me this how I'd write that harm move:

    When you get beaten up or grazed by something, the MC'll pick one from the pain list.

    When you're hit by something that could kill you, the MC'll pick one from the serious shit list.

  • I could go for that. I'd have try both and see!

    I like that the MC can say, "You're knocked off the bridge and lose the box of gear", even though you won the seize by force roll or whatever. I also like having the player choose, as I've mentioned before. This is worth testing, though!
  • Yeah, the PC can pick if you're not worried about the Czege principle. Or you can put it to the consensus. Or just decide what makes sense for the fiction.
  • Hmm.

    This is a seedling of a thought, and only tangentially related to the initial discussion, but Orly's approach (specifically, the "wake up three days later in a slave pit" line) got me thinking...

    We've been kind of focused on the fiction-side part of harm, and how in AW getting 'hurt' can be kind of boring because the physical body can be usually ignored.


    AW's harm clock does not in fact represent the physical wellbeing of a character. It is in fact 'plot armour', or, in other words, the ability of the character to do things despite being resisted. So what's really happening when a character gets hurt is that he's getting deprotagonised. The more you get hurt, the less you're able to do things despite other people.

    And the thing about that is that there's meaningful deprotagonisation and not. I suspect that this means that flat out more descriptive harm ("you lose your leg and can't move much anymore") isn't necessarily going to provide us with what we really(?) want, which is a kind of meaningful narrowing of options ("Chopper, you lose your leg and can't move much except when strapped into the bike by your lads.")

    More on topic - and I feel this has something to do with the above - I *would* kill a PC without his consent, if it had come to it and that would be the most interesting thing to do.

    Most of the time that'll mean that I do in fact have the player's consent, but it's not like that's a must. As MC, I am a fan of the character, not the player.
  • Shit man, if you're not a fan of the player then why are you at the same table?
  • I'm friends with people I play chess or boardgames with, but them being friends doesn't directly factor into the game played, right?

    A different way of saying the same thing is that a player can grant me consent for his PC's death far earlier than at the time of the actual death.

    I have killed a PC once - Truth, a Hocus. She had the Angel's lay on hands move, and we've established that, in that particular game at least, misses mean 1-harm for the person being healed, and that healing yourself iz a double-whammy of the same. The player had made the move multiple times with the same risk, hitting it most times. Then, one time, Truth was hiding in the subway tunnels after an attack by an car and was pretty near death, tried to heal herself, and missed the roll.

    That meant the death of Truth. And I think that's fine.

    She went on to psychically possess a member of her cult, whereas her ever-healing, ever-bleeding body was put up as a kind of symbol in the streets.
  • edited December 2012
    Oh, man. Well, this threatens to explode and destroy this thread, so let's be careful (or start a new one), but in my mind there are different levels of consent.

    Like, there's the kind of consent where you say, "Dude, I don't like that. I'm not playing this game anymore."

    But there's also the kind of consent where you don't want something but you've agreed to give someone else authority to enforce it. Maybe I don't want my character to get turned on by that jerk in the Monsterhearts game, but I've agreed to play a game where I'm not allowed to just say, "No, that doesn't happen."

    I feel that the way death is handled in a looser version of harm rules (like Orly suggests) can take us from the latter to the former.

    So, there's requiring player consent in a larger sense (which applies to all roleplaying, because it's basically imaginary), and there's requiring player consent within the frame of agreed-upon rules. If you're MCing Apocalypse World and you say, "This big biker walks into the bar," I don't get to say, "No. That doesn't happen." Not as long as we're still playing by the rules we agreed upon.

    (On a sidenote: I'm not concerned about the Czege principle, because that's the whole point of AW-style lists. You narrow the choices to the interesting ones, and once you've done so you can put those choices back into the hands of the players and the game still works. It's the premise behind Otherkind dice, and most AW moves. I have faith that it works!)


    I'm confused about your statement about "people being precious with their characters". Yes, this can go bad and ruin the game. I like to have my character suffer and all that! But, beyond that, advocating for your character is your job in a game like AW.

    The MC says, "there's bullets flying at you, if you stand still, you're going to die!" It's now my job to figure how I can deal with that situation. If I respond with, "I don't care, my character's dead. I win!" Well, the game won't work.

    So, I think we can have plenty of situations where the player doesn't want their character to die but isn't "being precious" to the detriment of the game. And that's where I'm not sure what the MC should do in a more freeform situation: "be a fan of the characters" and "keep Apocalypse World real" start to conflict at a certain point.

    It sounds like your solution is always to let the character survive in those situations, and find a way to make it make sense in the fiction later (e.g. "you wake up tied to a chair..."). Does that sound about right?

    You also make a really great point, and one that lots of us forget all the time:

    95% of these situations can be solved just by having a brief out-of-game conversation about it. Ask the player! Talk about it.

    That's a great take-away from this whole conversation.
  • Daumantas,

    How did Truth's death work in game terms? Did the possessed cultist share Truth's personality and memories? Did you start over with a new playbook, or keep using the same stats, etc?
  • Kept the playbook and stats. Got some of the memories of old Truth and most of the memories of the guy she possessed, Jav. We called the resultant character "Truthjav" among ourselves. The player got to define what Jav's memories were, with the implicit limitation that it would be in line with what had been established about Jav before, which was something but not much.

    Truthjav was a lot more confused about spirituality than Truth was, and became far more likely to use his/her knife and approach problems pragmatically.

    Anyway, we probably don't really disagree on how player consent works in the game, exact phrasing and details aside (or if we do, I'd rather not discuss it on this thread. My apologies for bringing up something I'm not that interested in discussing).

    I'd rather talk about what you guys think a harm move's overall purpose in the game is... I'm coming around to the opinion that the purpose of a proper harm system is to see in detail who or what the player is relying on besides himself.
  • @DWeird : "A different way of saying the same thing is that a player can grant me consent for his PC's death far earlier than at the time of the actual death." Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. Cool. Just a little misunderstanding. Thanks for unpacking! (But also, personally, I don't even really like to play chess or board-games with people I wouldn't be happy just shooting the shit for a few hours with. That's me tho.)

    @Paul_T : Being precious is different from advocating or being a fan. Being precious in a game like Clover is totally rad. Being precious in a game like AW is like, maybe you should write some fanfic instead. Being precious with the protags an ultracommon thing popular narrative. We're precious with Shepard. I'm not sure that's an entirely good thing.

    Like, what if Shepard can die at any point in the trilogy but you can just keep playing without them? What doesn't that mean for the narrative and for the game design? What if Liara saves the world? What if the only character continuity is the Normandy?

    Wanting to survive isn't being precious. Wanting only good things to happen to the character just because it's yours and despite its inconsistency within established fiction is being precious.

    Oh, and about always surviving: Sorta. Death is usually the least interesting option in a lot of situations. Dead characters have pretty boring lives, and it's your job to make the characters lives not boring.

  • edited December 2012
    I'm coming around to the opinion that the purpose of a proper harm system is to see in detail who or what the player is relying on besides himself.
    Holy shit.

  • Yeah I read that and thought "so is Orlando."
  • That sounds awesome to me. Hell yes.

    What do we need to do to make it work?
  • The prerequisite Orly added to the recover move, that you need help of some kind to recover, is a pretty decent start. Maybe all that's needed?
  • edited December 2012
    Hey, I was the one who added that to the recover move! (Although Orly was the first one to mention the idea of needing help.)

    Then again, you could mean something different. (Like needing help just to roll the recover move, or that when you get help you recover automatically.)

    And now, since this thread is turning into a sort of compilation of AW and AW hack harm rules, here's one more, from a G+ conversation originated by @John_Harper, modified by me:

    It's intended for Dungeon World or some other similar game, but it could work in AW, unmodified, as well! Your countdown clock then is not for how close you are to death, but how close you are to having no more plot immunity.

    When you resist harm, the MC will tell you what injury threatens your life. Roll+number of hit points you'd like to spend. One a hit, choose options. On a 13+, all of them. On a 10+, choose 2. On a 7-9, choose 1.
    * You can ignore this injury for now, it doesn't hamper you
    * You got lucky: the injury's not as big a deal as it seemed
    * You maintain your position or advantage, and can react immediately (maybe even take +1forward)
    On a miss, you suffer the injury in full, right now.
    When Frodo gets "run through" by the troll in the Mines of Moria, but we later find out that he had a mithril shirt on and he's actually totally fine, that means he rolled 7-9 and chose "you got lucky" (but loses his position, can't react, and is seriously affected by the blow).

    I think I'll be using this if I ever play D&D or some variation thereof.

    EDIT: Why do I think it's cool? First, it makes the true purpose of hit points instantly clear. Second, it allows you to customize how much you want to gamble your character's life. (Spend 5 hit points per hit, and you're guaranteed to survive.) Third, it allows the MC to make the threat very real -- "The orc is gonna chop off your arm!" -- instead of it being a generic number (take 6 damage). Finally, it means the MC no longer has to decide between inflicting harm and making a move of some other sort. The MC just says what bad thing is happening, you lose some hit points (unless you choose to roll+0), and we snowball from there. Finally, it still feels relatively familiar to D&D nostalgia enthusiasts: you have hit points, they go down in a fight even if you're winning.

    FURTHER EDIT: Finally, it forces the MC to describe the wounds in detail, or you don't know how many hit points you want to spend.

  • That's definitelly a part of it. But I feel like there's something beyond that. Something we try to get at when we go for "visceral" harm and similar things.

    What if the whole point of harm, what makes us care about it, is that you might not recover at all? What if something irreversable happens? How does a character deal with that?
  • Yeah, I mean at all. Which actually derived from refresh scenes in Lady Blackbird.

    I was watching Haywire last night and right at the start there's this scene where she's driving and instructing her hostage how to patch her arm. And I was like yeah, even badasses need help.
  • @DWeird : Yeah man, I'm working on it. Secret stuff. Away from hit points and towards trauma and scars.
  • Orly's had the requirement to frame a scene where you get help before you can roll to recover in his rules for months, although this is the first time we've talked about that applying to every instance of how I want recover to work.
  • I was watching Haywire last night and right at the start there's this scene where she's driving and instructing her hostage how to patch her arm. And I was like yeah, even badasses need help.
    Dude! I was like THIS close to mentioning that scene in this thread! I kept thinking about that movie when I was doing the first Black Seas draft.
  • Ah, now that makes a lot of the earlier conversation make more sense! Yes for context. Cool stuff.
  • edited December 2012
    Another thought is just using the countdown clock more like the other clocks work.

    You advance them when nasty stuff happens to the character (e.g. you get beat up). If something really bad happens, you advance it to 9:00 immediately. From then on, bad stuff happens to you until you deal with it.

    So, taking a gunshot after you're at 9:00 means "that's only two more chances you have to get to some help, instead of three", as opposed to counting harm and the whole deal.

    Now the clock is measuring how many story "beats" your character is away from death, instead of tracking weapon damage and armor.
  • edited December 2012
    The prerequisite Orly added to the recover move, that you need help of some kind to recover, is a pretty decent start. Maybe all that's needed?
    Didn't really care for the recover move before, but THIS I like. Has more of the "to do it, you have to do it" vibe. Prior it felt too much like an automatic recover roll rather than a roll that is triggered by the narrative fiction. But if you as a player have to establish what kind of help you are getting in order to recover, then that totally works.
  • edited December 2012
    I was imagining the move as any other move: to do it, you must do it. So, how do you recover? You've got to do something to roll (or someone else has to do something to help you).

    Requiring help of some sort is a clearly phrasing, of course, but it means you're really in trouble if you do something alone. That could be a neat effect--going to do something alone now takes on a whole new meaning. ("Are you sure you want to face him alone, Keeler?")
  • edited December 2012
    Yeah, but in practice "to do, do it" falls apart. Characters can do anything but what they actual fixate on are basic moves. Sex, manipulation, and violence. You see it with all the problems in DW. Sage and Adam's answers are great (e.g. the 16HP Dragon and the limits on H&S). I'd rather just make those things explicit in the rules.

    So, to recover to just need to address that shit in fiction, then you end up with weak equivocation to get the effects. Which even I'm guilty of doing in games.

    If instead you say something, like "to recover from a minor trauma, you need to be explicitly vulnerable to another character, at least for a moment. To recover from a major trauma, you'll need a whole scene with another PC where you're completely vulnerable. When you recover from a major trauma..." then you set the minium in terms of what is needed to trigger the move.

    Yeah doing shit alone is either extremely difficult, causes poor outcomes or is basically impossible. I cannot think of any human endeavor completed alone. We don't hatch from egg-sacks fully formed. Humans are deeply and necessarily social creatures. Even action heroes need supporting characters.

    Also, damage as de-protagonization. That needs to be explored too. Just starting to think about it now.
  • Also, I think I'm going to watch Winter's Bone again. That might be an important thing.
  • Good points, Orly.

    I've never seen Winter's Bone! This reminds me to add to my "to watch" list.
  • So, to recover to just need to address that shit in fiction, then you end up with weak equivocation to get the effects. Which even I'm guilty of doing in games.

    If instead you say something, like "to recover from a minor trauma, you need to be explicitly vulnerable to another character, at least for a moment. To recover from a major trauma, you'll need a whole scene with another PC where you're completely vulnerable. When you recover from a major trauma..." then you set the minium in terms of what is needed to trigger the move.
    It's a good point, but it doesn't feel overly AW to me. Most of the time I find if people are glossing over the fiction to get the mechanical result, it's because it's not interesting to the people playing, so you either accept that and move onto the next interesting thing or add something to make it interesting. Is being vulnerable to others interesting? I guess so, but it's not the only interesting thing that could result from needing to patch a wound.

    Now fair enough call to add in this prerequisite for healing if AW is thematically all about how you have to rely on one another to survive, but it's not, at least the way I read the text. A lot of the playbooks are loners, and if you want to be, you can stay a loner, no problem.

    I think scarcity probably fits AW better - so you need well-stocked supplies, a place to hole up, an Angel you really trust or you're fucked... and maybe that's where you end up vulnerable to others, getting caught by the gang boss, patched up and pressganged into the militia or whatever.

  • edited December 2012
    Yeah, it's not AW. Not even a little bit.

    I woundn't advise just skipping fictional positioning in AW tho. The game itself starts to fall apart without the fiction-mechanic back and forth.
  • edited December 2012
    To elaborate a little bit:

    Yeah, I think you have to follow the fiction, like you do, to make sense of healing harm. If you're out for a week, sedated, that's an incredibly vulnerable position to be in. None of the moves are gonna be able to tell you who or what you're vulnerable to, that's in the fiction.

    On the point about loners:

    AW is a game about community. Even the Gunlugger or Battlebabe has to buy their bullets and food from somebody. Moreover, just because being a loner character is conceivable, doesn't make it interesting or effective in play.
  • Hmmm!

    I kind of agree with you both. I think AW has a lot of "loner characters" precisely because it IS about community.
  • Vincent Baker has stated he modeled the playbooks off the characters in Firefly. If you look at that show you see mostly a lot of loners escaping from the world and accidentally winding stuck with each other because everyone needs somebody to rely on for something. For most of them It's a hard won trust.
  • AW's not about community, though.

    It's not about community the way Star Wars is about spaceship battles. It's about community the way Star Wars is about coming of age.

    It's about the problems a community - you don't have stuff you need to really be a person, and most people around you are complete assholes. So saying fuck-you to the community or members of it, and then burning them down and riding off to the sunset should always remain an open option. It might not be a good game when that happens, but the game overall is better for that option being there. What would Star Wars be without the possibility that Luke actually turns to the Dark Side?

    You can't beat the theme over people's heads, right?

    So the *rule* to have to have a vulnerable moment with another character is a bad idea. First, I seriously doubt explicitly writing down that rule for a player's character to follow will lead to anything that will make the player meaningfully experience vulnerability.

    Something that guides play towards the same but doesn't explicitly state it would be better. Frex, something like this for workspace-like healing moves:

    (1-2 on the harm clock) Simple knocks and bruises will heal by themselves so long you eat and sleep well enough.
    (3-5 on the harm clock) More serious shit will take two of three - good time, a safe place, and active care.
    (6 on the harm clock) Whatever happened to you, the results are irreversible. You can't heal, but the MC might tell you how you can cope.

    So you can still have stuff like a bleeding Gunlugger crawling into a cement pipe, snaping his bones back in place and pulling the bullet out of his shoulder, then passing out for a week. Or a savvyhead that has a machine that patches him up with parts stolen from other people. Maybe the Battlebabe killed a bunch of scavengers in their campsite, got a minor bruise for it, and is now sleeping it off. But is he sleeping well? Whatever the answer, we get an interesting result.

    All these people are clearly not community persons. But they have to go seriously out of their way to be able to avoid or ignore the community, and that's still an interesting statement.

    So long as it's not a straightforward thing to do and the cost that needs to be paid makes sense, ignoring other people should still be an option.
  • edited December 2012
    I'm picking up what you're putting down. My suggestion was meant as merely illustrative and off the top of my head.

    Also, I think this might make reading my posts a little clearer: I'm not usually suggesting things that would work for an orthodox game of AW. I've been playing that game for over three years now, since the closed beta testing, and it does somethings extremely well but aren't really to my tastes or priorities. And I say that as a practically drooling fanboy of Vincent's work.

    Having finally played Rock of Tahamaat, I actually vastly prefer it to AW or IAWA.
    AW's not about community, though.

    It's not about community the way Star Wars is about spaceship battles. It's about community the way Star Wars is about coming of age.

    It's about the problems a community - you don't have stuff you need to really be a person, and most people around you are complete assholes.
    So it's about community then.

    I wonder if the Gunlugger can actually do that in Vanilla AW... uh with the first-aid kit move, if they're lucky, they won't immediately die. That list of options puts them in a really hard spot tho. And without the move, they're shit out of luck (pp.172-175).

    And I guess we'll have to disagree about what counts as an interesting statement. I've seen it in games and, IMHO, it's as dull as a bag of wet mice. But I guess there's no accounting for aesthetic preferences.
  • Oh, and I am 100% with you on the fruitful void stuff. That's an excellent point.
  • edited December 2012
    So it's about community then.
    Yeah, sure. That was just a little rhetorical flourish to counter the "duh, community! There's people involved" description of AW.

    A bag of wet mice would actually be quite worrisome.

    Personally, I'm not too concerned with preserving the feel of the AW harm system, as I believe we're all of opinion that it rather sucks. The goals are more... bringing it in line with the rest of AW without breaking too much of already existing parts. I don't know what yours are, exactly!

    Oh, and I would love to hear why you enjoyed RoT so much. I've played it too, but found the experience frustrating.
  • I know! Those poor little mice.

    What I liked?: Two GMs, rolling to initiate, having to make your intentions explicit, the premise (subaltern vs. hegemon), and the 'aesthetic principles' bit. It's not a complete game by any means, but I realized that hacking it would be far more fruitful than hacking AW for my purposes.

    It was frustrating for the first two hours, then it seemed to click and worked wonderfully.
  • I'm thinking of changing the "pain" entries a touch.

    What do you think of this, better or worse?

     You're a mess: bruised, swollen, bleeding
     You’re stunned, numb, or winded (you’re acting under fire until you shake it off)
     You lose your footing
     You lose your grip on whatever you’re holding
     You’re dazed or black out for a moment: you can’t be sure of the events of the last few seconds
     You lose track of someone/something you’re attending to, or miss noticing something important

    Only choose the last option if it's directly relevant to something important.
  • Not sure if I understand the intent, but on the face of it slightly worse - isn't 'dazed/black out' effectively the same as missing something important or losing track of someone if it's to mean any thing fictionally?

    On it's own, blacking out and not missing something important, etc. doesn't seem an interesting effect.
  • Yeah, it overlaps with both "miss noticing something" and "you're stunned", which is a bit of a problem.

    Still, I can see those being relevant in different situations: one's a little softer than the other, and vice-versa.

    I could see combining them all into one, single option.

    But I could also see using all four (as John Harper does in his Eye of Chaos harm move). I'm still torn on this one.

  • Well, I finally played Apocalypse World with this hack last night. It went really well so far! I like how it feels in play.

    Just make sure to emphasize that harm is a big deal, it has repercussions (although you sometimes get lucky).

    If you play AW in more of a resource-crunching style (OK, you missed that roll, so you succeed, but mark off one harm segment for now--we'll figure out what it means later), you may find it distracting, however.

    (Of course, that was part of my design goal for this from the start, so I'm not surprised.)
  • edited December 2012
    Some more comments from the playtest:

    One thing I really enjoyed was how the player choices influence character portrayal. You can kind of tell what players are going for when they make those harm choices, even though the system still feels very dangerous and real.

    We had a bit of a fight, with a grenade going off in the middle of a (small) crowd at the end. There were two PCs involved: the Battlebabe (a sexy, impulsive drug addict) and the Gunlugger (a tough dude who sticks to his guns). They both took a fair bit of damage, but the Battlebabe, due to her Impossible Reflexes, mostly suffered pain instead serious harm.

    The Battlebabe ended up on the floor, her weapons knocked out of her grasp, and her enemies getting away--and, since she chose "you lost track of something important", she has no idea what the hell happened to them or where they went. I can see what this player wants: to get into deep shit and try to dig her way out of it. However, her health and image (as a total sexpot) are very important to her.

    The Gunglugger, though, is all about taking a beating. He chose "You're a mess", having his nose broken, and ended the fight lying unconscious, crumpled into the wall ("out of action"). He's all about "how much do you have to hurt me to stop me kicking your ass?"

    This is cool, because the two characters have exactly the same stats on paper (same armor, same potential to die or survive, no special harm-relevant moves), but the harm choices give a lot room to character expression.

    The "serious shit" options also present an interesting trade-off: you can choose things which screw with you now (like falling unconscious), or things which harm you long-term (like losing the use of a limb, or a complicated wound which will only get worse), depending on whether it's more important to you to win the fight or to come out of to see another day.

    At the same time, it feels very unforgiving: these are tough choices to make. No one wants to get shot under these rules! (Whereas with six segments of harm, you pretty much know you can take a bullet and not worry about it at all.)

    So far I really like how this feels in play.

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