[Star World] Apocalypse World hack for space stories

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Comments

  • Exactly.

    I think your stressing test case for "does this work" is, can a GM quickly generate a rich and compelling experience on the fly in the play-to-find-out context of AW. So, in a Star Trek cliche, say the players run a sensor sweep and discover a downed starship with signs of alien biology -- go. As you design your play aids, try to give the GM tools that make handling this case quickly and easy so they can get back to the game.

    As you and others have said, there's probably reward in outside the box thinking in terms of alien biology and culture. You can always discuss this on the forums or in the game text. That's a fine mental exercise for prep; but, the moves and play sheets need to work real time.
  • Yes, yes. I think that one of the principles probably needs to be "Show the Surface, but Plum the Depths" or something. Ideally, the characters interact with a bit of the alien culture, but the rabbit hole just. keeps. going.

    My main concern at this point is that I see that the core moves don't do much to make these stories happen. But I'm loathe to jump right to "When you interact with aliens" kinds of moves. Anyone have any suggestions?
  • That's mostly in the principles, not the player side, though there are some options on player side too. I don't want to toot my own horn, but there are at least some examples in Planarch Codex that might be helpful. Check out the principle "reveal greater diversity" and the new player-facing move for intercultural communication on p. 33.

    If something's not appropriate as a player move, remember that you can just tell the GM to do it, as a principle or agenda, though it's good to provide concrete procedures for this.
  • @J_Walton - Awesome. I will take a look at those and add some new ideas to the game. I think that this side of the game, the diversity of cultures and species that the players will discover probably does belong mostly on the GM side, but the intercultural communication stuff is really exciting.

    I'm starting to really see why the core moves need to be rewritten. Originally, I thought they would be a good stepping stone, but now they feel almost like a hinderance. I want the game to be about the tension between the groups we belong to (like a crew or a culture) and our own interests and needs, but that's not present anywhere yet!
  • In that case, you might think more about Dog Eat Dog. Maybe, when you break a rule or principle (like the Prime Directive), the GM gets to make a move? I've used that trick in a couple AW hacks. It's good for emphasizing a certain code of conduct. There are other possibilities too, like XP-based moves that try to softly coerce you into doing things. Like: "When you follow/adhere to ABC when it's clearly not in your own best interests, mark XP" (like the Mortal in MH!). There should probably also be a move for "When you disobey a direct order." You might also look at the leadership moves for The Regiment/Ghost Lines for "When you lead an away team."
  • Yes, good ideas. I'm also thinking about how specific the setting needs to be. On one hand, I wanted to create something that was flexible enough to tell many kinds of stories involving ships and their crews, but I wonder if the vagueness of the setting is keeping us from making progress on the core of the game.

    I love the Codex stuff. Thank you. I think that's going to be helpful in looking at things through new eyes.

    Lately I've been thinking a lot about authority and the identity of groups. I think that The Quiet Year has some fantastic ideas about the way that communities interact and deal with conflict, and I'd like to see our players grapple with similar ideas about belonging to a group (the crew). There are a lot of examples in the fiction of characters struggling with what the group demands, the needs of the many, and what they wish for themselves...
  • I think it's very difficult to do anything of any sophistication without getting tuck into specifics. Vagueness in, vagueness out. Flexibility is over-stated as a virtue, as often enough it leads to shapelessness.

    Compare BSG and Trek; these both have shared themes in the direction of relationships among ships crew, shared identity and responsibility etc, but they are so different in their setting and tone that it is hard to imagine one set of rules covering both elegantly, let alone comprehensively.

    Plus, I have to say, I really hate it when rules come without a detailed setting; can't help thinking that I've just paid x bucks to be given permission to make shit up, which frankly I already had. In addition, the more ready to roll it is, the more likely it is to get played.
  • @contracycle - Doesn't Apocalypse World (and DW for that matter) leave a lot of room to explore the setting?
  • edited February 2013
    I don't think there's anything wrong with giving your game a specific setting. But if you're hacking Apocalypse World, I would hope it's because you think AW has something that your game needs. You've expressed clearly that you have different MC principles and different basic moves in mind ... but if you feel that your game needs a specific setting rather than something more organic that develops in play, then you should consider quite seriously switching to a different system or beginning to branch off from existing systems entirely and crafting your own mechanics (and, of course, grabbing whatever you see in other systems that feels right).

    Apocalypse World is vivid, but not specific. It has a driving fiction, but not a driving setting exactly. It picks a few things it wants to talk about, gives the players just enough of an idea to turn the engine over and then hands the reigns to the MC and players not just to craft the characters and the plot, but also the world and the rules of the world, and even portions of the rules of the game system (custom moves are awesome).

    Apocalypse World is a thematic, opinionated tool-box with some really cleverly designed tools. It is a master class in designing the right mechanical tool for the right fictional job, and in running a good game independent of your system. If nothing else, this game eases new GMs into the groove of things really, really, well.

    If all of that still sounds like what you want, I'd be really cautious about through a specific setting in there. I know it's hard! I've got a few WIP RPGs and one of them is AW hack (another was but has since been moved to a more or less original system). Every time I hit a stumbling block, it's that genericity that gets me. Making evocative but flexible rules is hard as hell. But don't give up on the generic yet! This hack has some really interesting things to say and I think the AW mechanics can keep taking you in that direction ... including the pseudo-setting set-up AW uses.

    I've read something from Vincent about Apocalypse world being (among many other things) a Firefly style crew of people who come from different places, have different needs, and don't necessarily like each other ... but they're all on this boat, see, and they have to deal with that. Except the boat is an apocalyptic landscape with considerably more head-room and a healthy injection of Mad Max. I've read a number of your posts that have this kind of a pseudo-setting in them. You have some things you want people playing your game to think about, things you want the mechanics to shove them into, some things you want them to experience ... but I think there's room for those things in settings as disparate Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek.

    That said ... you can always take it WAY out there. You can bind Diaspora and Apocalypse World into unholy union--Create a system. Describe that system, with at least one planet in it. Describe some features of that system ... who lives there (if anyone), what the social structure is, what makes this planet stand out (this could be done Diaspora style, or "Pick ## of these ... now ## of these" style as in AW). Don't worry if these end up looking stereotypical or otherwise problematic unless it violates your group's Lines and Veils. Now randomly assign each of the playbooks to one of these player-made systems (you can make one too, I guess). It's ok if they aren't evenly distribute. Now players pick play-books and fill them out while keeping that system in mind. Maybe the system they're in attaches new fictional and mechanical consequences to some of the options in the play book. In any case, now it's your turn. While the players do HX, you're keeping in mind where they come from. You're making note of where you want to subvert player expectations by revealing hidden truths about this system and that system. You're looking for conflicts not just in the lives of the characters, but in the societies and landscapes they come from--and those that they don't. Honesty demands that what's on the table matters to the fiction and the system ... but you have to "Plum the depths," too and that demands nuance and subverted expectation and unexpected consequences.

    This isn't really a solution to your specific issue ... but I think it's a nice off-the-top-of-my-head example of how to make the generic feel specific and give your players a sense of ownership of and respect for the toys you're about to bring to life--with all the joy and pain that implies. It's also an example of how to complicate

    Lately I've been thinking a lot about authority and the identity of groups. I think that The Quiet Year has some fantastic ideas about the way that communities interact and deal with conflict, and I'd like to see our players grapple with similar ideas about belonging to a group (the crew). There are a lot of examples in the fiction of characters struggling with what the group demands, the needs of the many, and what they wish for themselves...


    See, that sounds like the perfect type of thing for a pseudo setting! You need your set-up rules to create long term relationships with unexpected conseqeunces. You need factions or groups or oaths and precepts (or planetary systems) that bind the players to a course of action and inflict consequences when they stray. There are hints of it in your moves--I LOVE the Fight with Honor and Fight to Win dichotomy, for example. More of this sort of thing! The moves are making commentary on the play, feeding the fiction. Just like in vanilla AW. The moves set the stakes, telling you how things work around these parts. Go Aggro does a lot of work. Fight to Win does a lot of work. I like it. :)
  • @Gwathdring - Yes! I love this line: "Apocalypse World is vivid, but not specific." I think we were trying originally for something vague and not specific. I want to trade out the vague for vivid and keep the level of specificity similar to AW. I want people to create their own worlds, their own alien species, and their own stories.
  • Along those lines, "Utilize advance technology" seems like a lot of paperwork. Every one of those needs a list of at least two functions. Each function must be desirable and the functions must be coherent enough that the 7-9 state represents an interesting choice.

    That's a lot of work! If you're doing that much work for each item, you might as well call it a custom move, and just add a little extra text to it. Or slide this here into the "peripheral moves" category, and treat it as an MC aid that makes whipping up a custom move for a piece of advanced technology a matter of designing interesting, competing functions. It's fine to have this player-facing, but it doesn't feel like a basic move to me.

    What do you want to say about technology as a whole that represents something as fundamental to this story of allegiance, authority and identity as Fighting with Honor and Fighting to Win? Or, taking a step back, science fiction in general? Maybe something about pushing tech to it's limits--a "Giving her all she's got, captain!" style move.
  • edited February 2013
    @Gwathdring - Yes! I love this line: "Apocalypse World is vivid, but not specific." I think we were trying originally for something vague and not specific. I want to trade out the vague for vivid and keep the level of specificity similar to AW. I want people to create their own worlds, their own alien species, and their own stories.
    I think a lot of that comes as much from the written style as it does from the mechanics. Apocalypse World reads like you'd expect the author's manuscript to a Mad Max graphic novel would--the artist hasn't done anything with it yet, so you get to see the author writing things that aren't aimed at the reader of the finished project. It's unpolished, it's often informal, it's often exaggerated ... but it's evocative. Find a groove for writing about this game, and the moves are going to be ten times easier to write. Heck, write a specific setting. Then another, and another. Short stuff, maybe a page or two. Get into it, and try things until you think you have a voice to put in the player's head. Ooh, that's what I've been trying to tell myself! Sorry for rambling, my brain is a million places right now--I'm planning a research project for work, working on my own hack, thinking about yours, and fretting over whether to run The Sprawl or Star Wars World starting tomorrow as my first not-a-one-shot GMing experience (my players are cool with either, and find my indecision amusing). Anyway:

    Here's a better way to put it: Apocalypse World doesn't just have a writer of the rule-set and an MC of the game; Apocalypse World has a narrator with a consistent and specific personality. It's in everything we get as players and it's in everything the MC gets. The MC shares the spotlight and narrates, and the players even get a bit of it ... but you never fully shake Apocalypse World's real narrator. Give your system a narrator's voice.

    Edit: If it doesn't help, let me know ... I still haven't implemented this idea yet so it might be a dud. ;)

    Thanks for the inspiration. :)
  • Great point. I feel like the "advanced technology" move was one that started off clever, but quickly grows tedious. Now that I think about it, I've felt more constrained than freed by it while designing technology. I want some tech to be a pick 3, some to be a pick 2. They should just be custom moves!

    Maybe something like the below would be a better place to start:

    When you use technology to solve a problem, roll+Engineering. On a 10+, pick 3. On a 7-9, pick 1...

  • Here's a better way to put it: Apocalypse World doesn't just have a writer of the rule-set and an MC of the game; Apocalypse World has a narrator with a consistent and specific personality. It's in everything we get as players and it's in everything the MC gets. The MC shares the spotlight and narrates, and the players even get a bit of it ... but you never fully shake Apocalypse World's real narrator. Give your system a narrator's voice.
    Yes. YES! I love this. It's really part of the bigger picture of bringing the game to life, but I think it's exactly how AW both doesn't have a setting and completely points the players in a direction that makes the game work.
  • When you use technology to solve a problem, roll+Engineering. On a 10+, pick 3. On a 7-9, pick 1...
    Hmm. What are your tech-related principles?
  • edited February 2013
    I'll come back tomorrow and see what I can come up with. Meanwhile, a side note: I really like that you used classic bridge stations as stat names. That's one place you could start in giving the moves a voice--maybe rewrite the move with the tropes of that station in mind, without necessarily changing anything other than the language of the move.

    Whether or not you do that, I like the idea of Helm to keep cool, Tactics to fight to win--one of the first things I noticed when I went got to the "Use the basic moves from AW but rename the stats" step of making my hack was that a lot of settings work really well with a Sharp violence move. I think the synthesis of Fight to Win and Assess a Dangerous Situation is slick and really makes Tactics different from Sharp in a meaningful way. It's up to you if, in the long term, that particular meaning is in line with the stories you want the game to tell. In any case, I dig it.
  • OK yeah, but hang on a second. AW may not have a specific setting (and that to me is indeed still a drawback) but there are a couple of caveats. First, the implicit setting is pretty widely known, there's a lot of material dealing with that context in the rest of the culture, and it's not hard to see things in a suitable manner. But here is no such commonality in "science fiction", not even in "ship-based SF". BSG and Trek may both be set on space ships, but one of them is implicitly about a column of refugees and the other is about pure exploration. Now I think it would be entirely possible to work up something that was about refugees without being too specific about who they are or what is pursuing them, or something about a mission of exploration without being too specific about the culture that sent them out or what stuff they might find. But both of those forms of implicit focus could make it possible to construct rules that deal with those contexts rather then being overly vague and abstract. The former might prompt a rule like "when a passenger transport is destroyed..." and the latter might prompt one like "When you encounter an alien culture that appears grossly immoral...".

    In addition, the mere fact that AW has a rule for "when you open your mind to the maelstrom" says something pretty specific about how the world actually is. Some of the hardholder moves also imply some things about what there is in the world pretty firmly. And my point about differing technologies is rather similar: "Using advanced technology" is much less evocative than "when a transporter beam is interrupted".

    I'm not saying you have to produce an encyclopedia, even I often find that stuff pretty dull. But, the AW hacks have proceeded by shifting the principles of AW into different implicit contexts and thus focuses, not to mere generica.
  • edited February 2013
    Then you need to decide what you want to say about technology. I'm sure it's not just about transporter beams. Those examples sound like custom moves, again. What is your world's psychic maelstrom? In a superficial sense, it's the "Science" move ... but I mean in a fictional sense: what is always there in the setting, mutating to fit the setting but also guiding it? What do you want every player to have to face, every gaming group to have hanging around in their game to be understood fully at their collective discretion? Is it alien technology left by a precursor race? Is it The Force? Is it a collective consciousness like the psychic maelstrom? Is it an unspoken bond with your fellow soldiers/crew-mates? "When you look to your Bond for answers ..." "When you violate your Oath of Service ..."

    Is it something in the ship itself? "When you push the ship for all it's worth ..."?

    Consider this: Star Trek might have a different focus than BSG, but one could design a game that accurately recreated Firefly, Star Trek AND BSG by focusing on specific elements of the social and emotional setting rather than the technological and political setting. Similarly, I could make a game that encompassed Captain Kirk's and Captain Cook's voyages by focusing on the relationship between the characters and the setting (recording, exploring, understanding) rather than the setting itself.

    I guess I disagree that Star Trek and BSG are incompatible ... but as it's your hack that's not especially important. The question than becomes which of these two do you want to talk about? Or if neither, what is the least specific version of your setting? I'd still recommend writing out a bunch of back-of-the-book style setting spoilers and seeing what that gives you if you think you need to go back to the drawing board in outlining your setting.

    But you seem to like the idea of a ship or fleet of ships that everyone is attached to. Like the Enterprise, the Falcon, the Galactica. You named the stats after ship-board positions. Use that maybe. Look to the ship for a move. Give the ship something to say about the mechanics.
  • Consider this: Star Trek might have a different focus than BSG, but one could design a game that accurately recreated Firefly, Star Trek AND BSG by focusing on specific elements of the social and emotional setting rather than the technological and political setting. Similarly, I could make a game that encompassed Captain Kirk's and Captain Cook's voyages by focusing on the relationship between the characters and the setting (recording, exploring, understanding) rather than the setting itself.
    Yes! This is how we felt as well. I don't think they are incompatible because they have similar themes of authority, identity, and purpose. I think the challenge is going back to the core moves to reflect that. At this point, I feel like the combat mechanics (Fight to Win, Fight with Honor) encapsulate that sort of thinking. None of the rest of them really do.

    I think that one of the core themes of all of these stories is "we are our actions." Kirk doesn't just advocate for freedom and justice and goodness, he lives those values, even when he is put in grave danger as a result. How can we best make the core moves fit that thinking?
  • I think that one of the core themes of all of these stories is "we are our actions." Kirk doesn't just advocate for freedom and justice and goodness, he lives those values, even when he is put in grave danger as a result. How can we best make the core moves fit that thinking?
    Well, these values can inform the hard choices and difficult decisions the MC can offer, as part of the agenda and principles. If you can tie them down, they could be amongst the decisons you have to make.
    7-9: freedom, justice and goodness, choose two.

  • I don't know as much about BSG, but when it comes to Star Trek, it seems to me the conflict comes in two flavours---the kind that direct personal action can solve (including moral and diplomatic crises), and the kind technobabble can solve. I think other games provide some models of the former, and I think maybe what you're struggling with is how to include technobabble. If that's true, maybe it will help to reflect on why technobabble is a part of this genre, how it comes up and how the protagonists deal with it. The rumblings below are by way of suggesting one way you might approach the problem! I hope it helps!

    Okay, so, there's no psychic maelstrom, but there surely is Space and Tech. Space is dangerous; it's inimical to organic life, and it's full of crazy astronomical phenomena like supernovas, tachyon storms, local subspace distortions, and what not. The role of tech is to make Space less dangerous.

    There's a certain expectation of danger of the routine sort, and when Tech is working to its baseline, it creates a comfortable bubble for the crew, protecting them completely from the vacuum, from inertia effects, etc. Sometimes, there's an extraordinary Space phenomenon that Tech can be jury-rigged to address (in which case, the crew has to work as a team to make a plan and put it in action to avert danger). So, space is notionally dangerous but that danger can usually be ignored, when Tech works right; sometimes, Space is actually, imminently dangerous, when Tech fails or when a phenomenon is not routine.

    Often, at least in Star Trek, aliens only feature in a story to raise the stakes of an astronomical disaster---it doesn't matter that they're aliens, it only matters that they're people in danger and only the crew can help.

    Space war is only rarely about destroying the enemy, and more often about disabling Tech, leaving the enemy vulnerable to Space in order to force a surrender or withdrawal. In other words, space war is about leveraging your Tech to expose the enemy to Space. The enemy's weapons make Space more dangerous. All those routine problems like life support, interstellar travel, the ones that Tech usually keeps in the background? Enemy attacks bring them back into the foreground as active Space threats.

    What all of this suggests to me is that maybe you should think of Space as a front that's ever present but usually in the background; and Tech as a set of linked (basic and playbook-specific) moves that the PCs can use as a team in order to fend off Space threats. Enemy ships' weapons will usually prevent or interfere with Tech moves, exposing the crew (or alien bystanders) to Space effects.

    In other words, the PC's tech is Tech that they can interact with; the enemy's tech is Space, part and parcel with the threats posed by astronomical phenomena.

  • Space war is only rarely about destroying the enemy, and more often about disabling Tech, leaving the enemy vulnerable to Space in order to force a surrender or withdrawal. In other words, space war is about leveraging your Tech to expose the enemy to Space. The enemy's weapons make Space more dangerous. All those routine problems like life support, interstellar travel, the ones that Tech usually keeps in the background? Enemy attacks bring them back into the foreground as active Space threats.


    Ooooh. I like it.

    It does potentially compete with the notion of Fight With Honor and Fight to Win which MarkT seems to like (I like it too!). But there are some really awesome ideas to pull out of your post even if it doesn't end up being the primary design conceit at work here.

    In particular I like the idea of Space being the threat and everything else being about exposing one to space (hence me quoting that section). That might speak to a change that looks less like a hack and more like a new system, though. I'm sure there are ways to do that in AW, but it's such a rich idea ... the designer in me wants to give it a mechanism. Something that mixes tactical arithmetic with push-your-luck and counter-measure. I'm envisioning a system that relies on Barriers a lot (Shields, thematically?) that are broken down or spent in various ways. A system that requires you to spread scant resources between maintaining defenses against Space and taking actions--that leads quite naturally to an action-point or dice pool system.

    But I'm sure there are things you can do in AW that would work, too.
  • edited February 2013
    It does potentially compete with the notion of Fight With Honor and Fight to Win which MarkT seems to like (I like it too!). But there are some really awesome ideas to pull out of your post even if it doesn't end up being the primary design conceit at work here.</blockquote

    Yeah, I can see that, although I think it might be resolvable. If you have an independent idea of what kind of interpersonal drama you want to have, the framework I suggested (or something like it) lets you identify ways that technology allows interpersonal drama to unfold on a scale that would otherwise be prohibited by the rigors of space---which means, that interpersonal drama can be disrupted when technology fails or when it hits a limit, or it can become dangerous in ways technology would normally not allow. Ion storms that disable transporters, and the like. The crew works on technobabble solutions that will restore some normalcy to the unfolding of the interpersonal stuff. This happens often in ST; eg. the away team is negotiating a ceasefire between warring factions, and things turn sour. Normally they could be transported out of there, but a freak ion storm, or an enemy attack, renders transporters inoperable. The crew scrambles to jury rig a technobabble solution, while the away team tries to negotiate a new settlement or at least stall for time.
  • This happens often in ST; eg. the away team is negotiating a ceasefire between warring factions, and things turn sour. Normally they could be transported out of there, but a freak ion storm, or an enemy attack, renders transporters inoperable. The crew scrambles to jury rig a technobabble solution, while the away team tries to negotiate a new settlement or at least stall for time.
    That's an interesting way to look at it. I like it.
  • edited February 2013
    Thanks! I'm definitely thinking of Tech vs Space as a framework you add to provide novel variations on interesting dramatic stories that you can characterize in other terms, like honour vs expediency or the like!
  • @Cneph - When you try to do the right thing, roll+Helm. On a 10+, that path lies open to you. On a 7-9, pick two: justice, freedom, goodness. The MC will tell you why the third characteristic cannot be accomplished.

    @Creases - Yes! Direct action is one solution, and it often runs into the culture and traditions of aliens (and I think we've made some progress on invoking them more thoughtfully). That kind of action should have social costs and present dangers that make it feel fun and risky; taking that action should define who the characters truly are.

    Technology is the other kind of solution. We are definitely struggling to figure out ways to make that fun. It feels a bit now like people roll dice and stuff happens. Choices are hard to include. Tradeoffs are hard to master.

    I like this distinction between Tech and Space. Space is always grabbing at the crew, trying to tear the ship apart, trying to end their five year mission. Or trying to wipe them out! (Cylons).
  • Space war is only rarely about destroying the enemy, and more often about disabling Tech, leaving the enemy vulnerable to Space in order to force a surrender or withdrawal. In other words, space war is about leveraging your Tech to expose the enemy to Space. The enemy's weapons make Space more dangerous. All those routine problems like life support, interstellar travel, the ones that Tech usually keeps in the background? Enemy attacks bring them back into the foreground as active Space threats.
    In some ways, this is already in the game. When a craft takes damage, it can choose to knock out systems instead of being destroyed. And ships can target systems, leaving other ships disabled and alone in the vastness of space. :)
    ... the designer in me wants to give it a mechanism. Something that mixes tactical arithmetic with push-your-luck and counter-measure. I'm envisioning a system that relies on Barriers a lot (Shields, thematically?) that are broken down or spent in various ways. A system that requires you to spread scant resources between maintaining defenses against Space and taking actions--that leads quite naturally to an action-point or dice pool system.
    This is really interesting and pushes my mind in all kinds of neat directions. It seems like the tradeoffs become between taking action and protecting yourself, constantly pushing the limits of what you can do at the cost of it all coming crashing down around you. It's a little bit like the Infernal in Monsterhearts.
  • This happens often in ST; eg. the away team is negotiating a ceasefire between warring factions, and things turn sour. Normally they could be transported out of there, but a freak ion storm, or an enemy attack, renders transporters inoperable. The crew scrambles to jury rig a technobabble solution, while the away team tries to negotiate a new settlement or at least stall for time.
    @J_Walton had some neat ideas for dealing with these kinds of actions in the Planarch Codex. In short, tell the players to create a countdown clock for difficult problems, like repairing the transporters. Then use the story to advance the clock in meaningful ways, eventually arriving at the solution. That way the system provides some resistance (i.e. you can't resolve it in one roll), but you can take actions that lead to a solution and see that solution demarcated on your sheet.

    I keep coming back to the idea that what we really need is a new economy to drive these kinds of conflicts. I think the most successful hacks become different games when they develop a way of thinking about conflicts that is different from AW: Monsterhearts has strings, Dungeon World has the damage system (different dice/hit points), Regiment has the Engagement table (pushing the characters to the center of the action).

    Some of this is about combat, but mostly it's about character engagement. What should characters do? What governs those interactions, etc. I think our ship moves are working because they push the kinds of epic (but not overly detailed) scenes that fit the BSG/ST source material really well. An actual engagement table for ship battles would probably detract. (But maybe it's worth a shot!)
  • Rob and I have started reworking some of the playbook moves to make them more obvious to the rest of the table. In addition, we think that there might be some value in explicitly calling on the players to define more of the setting. Here are two moves from the Captain's playbook:

    Captain’s Log: If your ship is secure and your command unchallenged at the beginning of the session, roll+Helm. On a 10+, your troubles are minor. Pick one from your ship’s list and tell the MC what's going on. On a 7-9, you pick one trouble and the MC picks one. On a miss, the MC will tell you how bad things are.

    An Old Friend: Declare a character an old friend and roll+Comms. On a hit, take 3 hold. You may spend the hold one for +1 on rolls involving the old friend. On a 7-9, tell the MC what you owe them and why they will call in the debt. On a 6-, tell the MC why your old friend has good reason to want you dead.

    Thoughts?
  • edited February 2013
    Captain's Log is great. If the focus is the ship, something should always be going wrong on the ship and making the player's part of that spices things up substantially. I'm a sucker for moves like that, though. Playing as an Operator made me so very happy ... I almost always missed the roll. It was glorious.

    An Old Friend I'm torn about. I like the concept and what it says about The Captain. I'm a little less sure about how if plays out mechanically. I'm not sure there's a natural progression from +1s on rolls that involve them, to a debt you owe them to a reason they want you dead. The latter two fit together fine, it's the leap from the first one to the others that makes it feel like it's two different effects rather than more/less successful versions of the same move.
  • I've only just glanced over things so far, but I am really impressed with those ship playbooks. Just the idea of giving the ship a playbook, complete with moves, is awesome. It really turns the ship into a character instead of relegating it to a mere piece of equipment.

    Out of curiosity, is The Captain "balanced" with the other character playbooks? What I mean is, has The Captain's final say on which ship playbook gets used been factored in to the other choices they get? It looks like it, but it'd be kind of unfair if all the characters were "balanced" with each other but The Captain got to choose the ship in addition to everything else. Just saying.

    As I said though, the concept of ship playbooks is awesome. It's helped me with ideas for faction playbooks that've been churning around in my head for a while. Thanks.
  • @Gwathdring - Thanks! Glad you like Captain's Log. We're trying to do a lot more explicit player setting generation.

    How about something like this for old friend:

    An Old Friend: Declare a character an old friend and roll+Comms. On a hit, the character will offer you comfort and aid, even if it exposes them to danger or retribution. On a 7-9, tell the MC what you owe them and why they might call in the debt. On a 6-, tell the MC why your old friend has good reason to want you dead.

    Is that more connected?

    @HyveMynd - Thank you! Those faction playbooks sound interesting. What are you thinking? :)

    As for the balance, we've done our best to make it such that the other characters have many more options (including features on the ship) that contribute to the setting. :)
  • @Cneph - When you try to do the right thing, roll+Helm. On a 10+, that path lies open to you. On a 7-9, pick two: justice, freedom, goodness. The MC will tell you why the third characteristic cannot be accomplished
    Or, what you must risk or the price you must pay to accomplish the third. (Yes, if)
  • @Cneph - Yes! That's really interesting. :)

    We are also thinking about some "when you give an order / when you disobey an order" moves...

    Any suggestions?
  • edited February 2013
    Oh, faction playbooks immediately made me think of a worksheet where the players define the galactic civilization they are representing, in a similar manner to the Hardholder or Battalion worksheets from The Regiment. Things like maybe...

    Choose four
    Has an active navy (pick another weapon system)
    In an expansion phase (+1 to Ship drive speed)
    Has advanced technology (Choose another tech system for the ship)
    Golden age of the civilization (+1 to Hailing Frequency rolls)
    Mercantile (+1 Cargo space)
    ...

    Choose two:
    At war with a more powerful enemy (-1 supply but +1 ship weapons)
    Beset by internal factions and strife (Add another Threat to the crew.)
    Declining and dealing with secession of outlying systems
    Rebuilding following a collapse

    The bonuses/penalties are whatever, but you get the idea.
  • @Cneph - These are totally interesting. Does it get to be too much though between defining the civilization and defining the ship?

    We've batted around the idea of defining more of the Values and Fears of the Terrans, so that each game has a slightly different feel to it, but started to worry that it was too much prep time for an *W game.
  • edited February 2013
    Would it be too much for me? No, I think I'd dig it. For a one-shot? Probably. For any given group going into a multi-session Star World game? I guess that's what playtesting is for, but it would give the MC a lot of guidance about the universe the players want to explore and inform the game the table wants to play.

    Edited to add- Like in MH you have the Skins, then the town, the seating plan, the provocative questions. Multi step startup. The first AW session is about following the characters through a typical day.

    I could see that civilisation worksheet asking questions about the government, leaders, values, fears, allies and enemies etc, too.
  • @cneph - Cool. I was thinking about doing it like Durance, where each person at the table gets to select one thing and cross off one thing. For example, you could select "Military Strength" as a Value and cross "Military Defeat" as a Fear, building a society that is invested in military might but understands that loss is a part of being a military society.
  • I like the Durance-style idea of each player selecting one thing and crossing off one thing from a list to help describe the "galactic federation" setting the game is taking place in. That's really cool. Also, after my abysmal first attempt at MCing AW I learned a lot about set up: the more your players are clear on about the setting going in, the smoother the game will go. My group spend the entire first session of our MH game figuring out their characters, their relationships to one another, their place in the school and the town, etc. It was a lot more successful than going in with nothing. So I agree with @Cneph.

    I won't derail your thread with my own stuff @MarkT, but your ship playbooks got me thinking about factions. I've been kicking around ideas of translating Vampire: the Requiem to Monsterhearts, and was thinking of doing two types of playbooks; clan and covenant. Those ship playbooks of yours gave me ideas how to make the covenant playbooks feel more like living (not) breathing organizations. Also, maybe a separate City playbook that everyone works on together.
  • @hyvemynd - Awesome. Glad you like the idea. I'll try to work out some of these pieces and bring it back to see what you all think. Rob and I have spent a lot of time talking about how to explicitly give players more control over the setting and the story. I think that this is a cool move in that direction.

    Please derail! I think it's hugely interesting to see what those faction playbooks would look like. I feel like this is some sort of emergent *W-Fractal, in which every element of the story from the grand empire to the lowest faction, has a playbook, a set of moves, an instinct, etc. I'm interested to see where that goes.
  • Looking forward to seeing more stuff for Star World, @MarkT. Creating playbooks and worksheets to give the players more control over the setting/story is a great idea.

    I'd never considered the fractal nature of *W games, but I can't stop thinking about it now. Cool. As you said, not everything would need a playbook, but each element could have instincts, goals, and moves from the entire civilization all the way down to each individual person. Wow.

    I don't have any concrete ideas for the Monsterhearts/V:tR faction books yet. One of the things I really liked about the V:tR game setting was the mixing of clan and covenant. With 5 clans and 5 covenants (6 if you count unaligned), you had 25 (or 30) different combinations. So my initial idea was to allow players to choose moves from clan and/or covenant playbooks at character creation or as an advance. Take both your starting moves from the Daeva Clan Skin book and you're focusing on your "familiy". Take one move from the Deava clan skin book and one from the Circle of the Crone covenant book and you're a character with a political affiliation.

    At first, the covenant books would just give the character access to new moves and some equipment/help. But after seeing those ship playbooks of yours, I'd really love to make the covenant books "come alive". Beloning to a political group is a two way street; they'll help out members, but you have responsibilities and duties as well. Maybe something like the Operator's gigs. Hmm...


  • An Old Friend: Declare a character an old friend and roll+Comms. On a hit, the character will offer you comfort and aid, even if it exposes them to danger or retribution. On a 7-9, tell the MC what you owe them and why they might call in the debt. On a 6-, tell the MC why your old friend has good reason to want you dead.

    Is that more connected?
    Very much so! I like it. :) I presume this is intended to go off only when you meet a character for the first time (or at least, only once per character you meet), and as such the move should probably include that clarification. If not, there are additional ambiguities in the wording.
  • Ah, I love the idea of each Covenant acting as a living organism within the greater City playbook. You could also give over territories to certain Covenants or Clans... and the new moves that come with them. Very interesting! You should write some up and post them in the main Forum.

    As for Star World, we're hard at work on the next version. Given the feedback we've gotten here, there are probably going to be some major changes in the way the structure of the main moves work. We'll post something soon. :)
  • If you're going to use covenants, allow the players to create them, not unlike how a Hardholder creates the holding. You pick some options, answer some questions, and you have a sense of what kind of group your character belongs to.

    You should be able to choose a move from a covenant-specific list, and maybe the covenant supplies you with a move, as well. Something the covenant can do *for you*, when you need it. But also some kind of debt or obligation or trouble that comes from being part of the covenant, as well.

    If you set it up right, you can still keep the possibility of remaining an "unattached" character, without a covenant, or switching covenants mid-game. That keeps play more interesting, I would think.

    I don't know if this is helpful: I know nothing about the source material.
  • @Paul_T - Interesting ideas!

    One of the things that some of our earlier faction talk got me thinking about was rival factions. For example, you might create the main group for an alien species or the human federation, and then simultaneously create a rival group that also holds sway in the society. So if the dominant group is capitalistic and transactional, the rival group might offer a perspective more collective and communal. These factions may be in conflict or they may find ways to manage that conflict productively. The characters could choose to be aligned with them or unaligned.

    Thoughts?
  • edited February 2013
    That sounds pretty great. I'd be worried about having moves associated with the covenant, though, as Paul_T suggested unless you also give special moves to unattached individuals or include plenty of strings on the covenant moves. No sense in punishing unattached players mechanically unless that's part of the story your game is trying to tell.

    General thoughts on the matter:

    One of my favorite parts of FATE system games Diaspora and Dresden is the world creation step. You build systems or city locations; you as a player have a massive impact on the shape of the world in a concrete way. This gives everyone at the table a chance to understand what sort of a world they're leaping into without forcing the GM to front all of that. The downside is that it makes creation a fair bit longer than thus reduces the pick-up-and-play aspect of vanilla Apocalypse World significantly for the players while increasing it significantly for the MC. The players are making your fronts now, at least some of them. And they're already invested in those fronts ready for you to make obvious moves and primed for you to turn the world upside down and have it mean something because they have more detailed expectations for you to subvert should you choose.

    The Sprawl (an Apocalypse World hack in a rough alpha state that I'm currently running based mostly on Gibson's cyberpunk style) also does this. Everyone at the table (MC included) creates a multi-national corporation with a rough idea of what it does. In my game, I first led the table in building the basics of a Cyberpunk future and a city in which we could start, so I added a bit to the corporation creation--define what it's up to in our city, what it's local interests seem to be. Further down the line, characters have character choices that can cause them to be "owned" or "hunted" by a corporation instead of other negative effects connecting the players, the corporations and the world together further. Finally, the "Links" (Hx) step involves everyone describing a job against one of these corporations (or governments or crime syndicates or similar) that they were central to; then there are rules for finding out what other players helped you on the job and thus who has "Links" with you. Then the corporate threat clock goes up depending on how many jobs were run against them and how many players were part of each job.

    Now before we start playing, everyone's on board with taking part in the story-telling and fiction-crafting and letting other players (not just the MC) have a part in the authorship of the story. Everyone knows some of the major players and has explicit fictional connections with at least one of them. And I've got a bunch of corporate threats with grudges of varying strength against the players and varying levels of information about the players. I think more games should rely on the players to establish fiction like this, especially in systems that are already pretty light in the stats department. It really helps the MC and it gets people on the same page.

    Bringing things back away from the general, I like the idea of creating factions and then deciding what their relationships with one-another would be rather than starting from the assumption that you need to create a rival for faction/Covenant x and going backwards from there.

    Edit: I realize that I forgot to credit the creator of The Sprawl. I don't feel like I implied it was mine, but I should provide a link and credit in any case: http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=4030.0, curtesy of Anarchangel over on Barf Forth.
  • @Gwathdring - Great ideas. I like the interconnected rival corporations. Really interesting way to frame the world!
  • edited February 2013
    I've been thinking a lot about interconnections while running the Sprawl, and the best ones seem to just happen when I'm doing enough to make the world dirty, corporate and high-tech. Corporations set themselves with and against each other as their individual agendas put them in one-another's way just like smaller NPCs do. At the end of it all, a big Covenant or faction or corporation is just a really big and wonky NPC made up of smaller NPCs. Make Faction-PC-Faction triangles, make everyone want the same territory or resources and let the conflicts happen--and let things turn the other way when it makes sense. Corporations make back-door deals to slam out mutual rivals or corner markets. They team up to take down mutual problems, like this one hacker who hits all of them and doesn't secure his lines worth a damn because he's a stupid teenager who hacks more out of reckless vandalism than criminal intent.

    If your factions have enough body to them, connections of all sorts spring off the page. An explicit rivalry here or there is fun ... but it's a lot more fun when the players are on the ground feeling the tension, working for folks on both sides only to have a war or rivalry spring to life in front of their noses, or between them and their objectives. In my Diaspora game, one of the most intense moments was our being on-planet when Corvi's invasion fleet lifted off to the terrifying anti-human sermons of Creed and his fellow Ascendants while we still had to rescue a team member's father, find and talk with our one android ally in the midst of human-hating war-hungry soldiers, keep our human members our of harm's way, and then get out of dodge ... and on our way to outrun the invasion fleet to it's target planet so we could finish our business before war destroyed our objective. That happening in the middle of play felt a lot cooler than the historic and present conflicts we built at creation. Tension rising and breaking between factions can be a great way to guide your MCing in a game that actively discourages traditional preparation.

    Just as Hamlet can't kill his Uncle when he first realizes the man is guilty because then the play would be over, unless the war or rivalry between factions really works best as a starting point ... don't bother making up your mind abut it until it is quite clearly important you make up you mind. No sense in ending the delicious tension before you've begun. :)

    Hmm. Now that I think about it, Hx moves at the start of the game sort of break with this. They establish explicit relationships between the PCs. It's easy to hand-wave this off and say that the PCs are special (and they are, so that's sort of fair) but perhaps it's a chink in my perspective and I'm looking at factions all wrong. It depends on what you want the game to do. If you want the world to have an old history ... you can work that in as you go. Add details later. If you want the players to have an old history, you need to inform their decisions about each other from the moment a PC has the floor. Similarly, if you want the PCs to have history with an NPC or faction, you need to establish that before free-play between the PC and MC occurs involving said faction or NPC ... but Faction/Faction stuff can be more organic, and as such probably should just to avoid any unnecessary limitations or conflicts between the state of the table at creation and the state of the table further down the line.

    Ok. I think that's a consistent line of reasoning. I apologize if this is unimportant/off-topic or whatever ... I'm mercilessly bored while waiting for a physics to happen in a vacuum chamber so I can go home after several hours of isolation and whirring machinery. As such my attempts to be relevant might be flagging a bit under the brain-weirdness of restless, energetic boredom ;)
  • That happening in the middle of play felt a lot cooler than the historic and present conflicts we built at creation. Tension rising and breaking between factions can be a great way to guide your MCing in a game that actively discourages traditional preparation.
    Yeah, good points. I think it's important not to lose sight of the "Play to find out what happens" agenda. It's possible to over-engineer the situation, essentially dictating all the conflicts that are going to play out instead of letting them build slowly during the course of the game.

    It seems like there is a principle in here somewhere. :)
  • If you like that sort of crap, sure.

    And yes, I'me being ostentatiously offensive there, because this is in danger of becoming another artifact of taste elevated to a truism.
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