Help Me Get "Apocalypse World" and PbtA games in general.


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Reynard

Legend
@Reynard Have you tried out Ironsworn?

I never really got PbtA games until I ran a solo Ironsworn game for myself. Suddenly I understood the philosophy and practice of the genre of games. Ironsworn is free to try out online, and has resources to run it solo or without a GM. Definitely worth trying out!
I have not but I do own it.
 


pemerton

Legend
So when you mention the idea of a car tailing the PC, or when @Ovinomancer mentions seeing a storm rolling in, imo those aren't really appropriate to the game, at least as an establishing challenge or setup that isn't connected to a roll.
I don't the game at all except from reading posts about it, so I just made that up, to try and covey the contrast between the locked door being a soft(er) move and a hard one.
 

pemerton

Legend
This is an interesting example, since in a trad game this would often be separated into

-an Intimidation (or similar) roll to see if Dremmer complies

-a pretty standard combat scene, likely without even much in the way of an ambush or surprise bonus for the PC.

Now I really like that this approach collapses those two elements. I just think it's interesting because both the GM and the PC would have to fully understand the stakes, and be on the same wavelength. That's one of the reasons that I think PbtA is a phenomenal game design approach, but that there's a pretty steep learning curve, especially for players with lots of trad experience. I sometimes think PbtA games—especially those with a lot of action—would do well to make that clear. I've played in one friend's attempt to jump from running trad to running PbtA, and it was a complete disaster. Some sort of guidance for rebooting one's brain would be appreciated (I know I had to reboot mine the very hard way, and there are still elements I probably don't fully get).
I'm always intrigued by this idea of a steep learning curve, or re-wiring/rebooting. I want to analyse it.

What idea/expectation/habit is it that has to be overcome? My sense is it's this: that the GM has secret, unilateral fiction that is used to decide what happens next, and that operates prior to or outside of the mechanical system for action resolution.
 

I don't the game at all except from reading posts about it, so I just made that up, to try and covey the contrast between the locked door being a soft(er) move and a hard one.
No, I totally get it, and I wasn't trying to scold you. Just noting that I think some later, post-AW PbtA games are less formal and detailed about how this stuff is handled on the GM side. Even something like Avatar Legends, which still has a decent number of moves (plus a very crunchy combat system) is more freeform. Whether that's to Avatar's credit, I'm not sure, but I imagine Magpie didn't want to scare away the droves of first-time gamers who backed it on Kickstarter.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
As you know I'm not working from AW experience. I'm working from having read the AW rulebook pretty closely, and using the methods (perhaps a little roughly and readily) in Classic Traveller play.

But it seems to me that, in a fundamental sense, all the GM/MC does in AW is to make moves, either soft ones or hard ones. Upthread I've already quoted the text from p 117 (1st ed; I don't have 2nd ed), and there's also this on p 116:

Whenever someone turns and looks to you to say something, always say what the principles demand. . . . Whenever there’s a pause in the conversation and everyone looks to you to say something, choose one of these things [from the list of MC moves] and say it.​

I guess the exception to what I've just said is the GM/MC asking provocative questions, though often these will also be moves - particularly offering opportunities or setting up some incipient badness. Of course there's also the GM having fun and kibitzing like at any table, but that's not them acting in their "official" role.

I don't see "saying yes" as part of the AW lexicon. If you do it, you do it - there is no "get out of rolling via GM fiat". That's why different PbtA games need different basic moves, to reflect different premises about what sorts of actions are high stakes.

In AW 1st ed, here's how the example of play, under the heading Moves Snowball, begins (p 152):

Marie the brainer goes looking for Isle, to visit grief upon her, and finds her eating canned peaches on the roof of the car shed​
with her brother Mill and her lover Plover (all NPCs).​

Marie's player can tell us what Marie does - going looking for Isle - but (given that she's not acting under fire, nor doing it by opening her brain to the psychic maelstrom) that doesn't trigger a player-side move. So Baker makes a move in reply - he's the one who tells Marie's player that Marie finds Isle, Mill and Plover sitting on the roof of the shed eating peaches. Baker doesn't tell us what move he has made here, but it seems like he's offering an opportunity. It's less clear what principle is governing this - we need more context - but given the remark to Marie wanting to visit grief upon Isle, maybe Baker is looking (at Isle) through crosshairs. In other words, he's deliberately made a move that steps up the conflict and stakes at the table.

Everything else being equal, Baker could have made a different move - say Isle's nowhere to be found in the hardhold - which would announce offscreen badness, and might be looking at Isle through a different set of crosshairs. The MC is not obliged to let Marie meet up with Isle just because that's what Marie's player wants; and there is no analogue to a Circles mechanic by which Marie's player can oblige the MC to frame an encounter between Marie and Isle.

I think that @andreszarta is saying the same thing about the locked door, or the T-intersection.

I mean, suppose that Baker tells Marie's player that Isle is nowhere to be found, and Marie's player asks "Is there anywhere she might be that I can't check?", the MC can answer (surely!) "Well, the car shed's door is locked, so you couldn't check in there." That's offering an opportunity, most likely with a cost; and is responding with <naughtiness>. If Marie's player replies, "I wait until no one's nearby, then bust it open," well that sounds like Doing Something Under Fire. And so we resolve that. Or if Marie's player instead replies, "Bugger! I go to find Keeler the Gunlugger to help me break into the shed", well that's good too - the MC might ask Keeler's player what Keeler is up to, and go from there. Or maybe Marie opens her brain to the psychic maelstrom, hoping to learn if Isle's locked in the shed. Etc.

To put it another way, perhaps more formally: in AW there is no process of framing, player-side move, resolution, re-framing as there is in (say) Burning Wheel or Prince Valiant or a 4e D&D skill challenge. Player say what their characters do, perhaps after poking and prodding via questions from the GM/MC, and either that triggers a player-side move (if you do it, you do it) or else the GM/MC responds with one of their moves, and we keep going until we agree it's time to stop.
Not saying yes, or "if you do it, you do it" is a limitation on the GM to not let things slide. If the players do something that calls for a move, the GM must enforce the move. They cannot let up and just say "yes" to an action that invokes a move.

This, however, is not what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about is that this does not give the GM the authority to block actions. If an action is declared that interacts with an established thing in the scene, the GM is NOT free to just alter that thing to block the action UNLESS said thing was previously established OR there has been a move made whose result authorizes the GM to do so.
 

pemerton

Legend
Brindlewood is what I'd consider—and I'm fully making up this terminology, with no authority to do so—a second- or third-wave PbtA game, where the number and specificity of moves have been pared way way down, and the extremely specific premise and tone go a long way toward managing what players and GMs would even consider doing, rather than more specific mechanics. There are about four kinds of moves that PCs can do, and "reactions" for the Keeper that are basically all based on reacting to rolls.
I think some later, post-AW PbtA games are less formal and detailed about how this stuff is handled on the GM side.
When these points are connected to @chaochou's comments (and my echo) about the importance to the PbtA experience of tight design of the moves, especially the basic moves, what should we think?

Are these "later wave" games improvements on the design, or losing one of its key strengths? (Not a rhetorical question.)
 

Reynard

Legend
Not saying yes, or "if you do it, you do it" is a limitation on the GM to not let things slide. If the players do something that calls for a move, the GM must enforce the move. They cannot let up and just say "yes" to an action that invokes a move.

This, however, is not what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about is that this does not give the GM the authority to block actions. If an action is declared that interacts with an established thing in the scene, the GM is NOT free to just alter that thing to block the action UNLESS said thing was previously established OR there has been a move made whose result authorizes the GM to do so.
Do you mean that once the scene is frames putting in the locked door* is whatever the barrier move is called and therefore must come at point where the MC is authorized to make such a move?

*we'll leave aside for a second that a locked door isn't particularly interesting on its own.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Brindlewood is what I'd consider—and I'm fully making up this terminology, with no authority to do so—a second- or third-wave PbtA game, where the number and specificity of moves have been pared way way down, and the extremely specific premise and tone go a long way toward managing what players and GMs would even consider doing, rather than more specific mechanics. There are about four kinds of moves that PCs can do, and "reactions" for the Keeper that are basically all based on reacting to rolls. The players are old ladies who are a part of their community, not reckless adventures bashing their way through every challenge. The tone includes horror, especially as the campaign goes on, but it's also relentlessly "cozy," in order to make those moments of horror more surprising and weighty.

So when you mention the idea of a car tailing the PC, or when @Ovinomancer mentions seeing a storm rolling in, imo those aren't really appropriate to the game, at least as an establishing challenge or setup that isn't connected to a roll. That's one of the reasons I was curious about digging into this idea of the GM saying a door is locked. To me it seems like this is a good illustration in the difference between various PbtA games, but also why it can be a little problematic to apply AW's principles to every game it inspired. PbtA games really are remarkably different from one another. I think that's a strength in the approach, but also a challenge.

And fwiw @Reynard I never recommend AW as anyone's first foray into PbtA. I get the urge to start there, since PbtA started there. It's insanely influential, and if you can grok it you'll be able to pick up any other PbtA game almost instantly. But I think some of the more streamlined games that followed are much easier to pick up. I still reel a bit when I look at one of the extended examples of play in AW and imagine making all of that work seamlessly as a GM. Like I know it happens, and that some people have definitely mastered it. But it's a real high degree of difficulty.
I disagree with your statements about appropriate framing. A storm is something that happens, we see similar scenes in movies all the time -- having to seek shelter from the elements. It drives things in the movies, quite often, putting people into places to interact where they would not normally, or stressing a schedule, or stressing items (a number of easy to reach references to a storm damaging important equipment). This should absolutely be something you reach for in Brindlewood.

But, even better, would be to look at what the active investigations are right now, what those threats are, and then bring in thematic pressures based on those. The lighthouse is what made me think of the storm -- so many imagine of lighthouses in storms are in my databanks. Brindlewood still needs pressure on the players. That's what the difference between the Day/Night moves really is -- in the Day the pressure in capped in danger. At Night, there's no cap. But both should involve pressure and danger to move the game!
 

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