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thoughts on Apocalypse World?

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
In my post just upthread, and just below this one, I've tried to spell out - with reference to the moves and principles - how the allocation of authority to establish fiction works in AW.

The same thing can be done to spell out what @chaochou says here,

So part of PC gen - including but not limited to the Hx phase - establishes background. So when the GM engages in framing early on, honesty demands that the framing follow from that established background. There's no "Four strangers - a cleric, a fighter, a thief and a wizard - meet in an inn."

And the principles include asking provocative questions and building on the answers and also being a fan of the players' characters. So it is the players, via their PCs and their answers to provocative questions, who are expected to provide the trajectory for play. But the GM will be putting their bloody fingerprints all over everything they touch (p 113). That's the pressure that chaochou refers to.

The same notions can be seen by drilling down even more finely. Consider seduce/manipulate, that I also posted about upthread. A player who succeeds on their throw for this move, and commits as required by the degree of success, can require the GM to have a NPC give the player's PC what they want. There's no GM move that allows the GM to tell a player what their PC chooses to do.

Or consider seize by force: a player who succeeds on this move can have their PC take definite hold of something. And this "binds" the GM in the sense that the GM is a fan of the players' characters and is expected to respond with intermittent rewards. But the players are under no requirement to be fans of the NPCs, to pause and ask what they do, nor to provide them with intermittent rewards! So the combination of principles and player-side moves establishes an asymmetry in this respect, which Baker notes towards the end of the "Moves snowball" play example (p 156):

A subtle thing just happened. I’ve been saying what they do and then asking Marie’s player what Marie does, but here she’s seized initiative from me. It isn’t mechanically significant, we’ll still both just keep making our moves in turn. It’s just worth noticing.​

What I'm trying to show in this post, and the previous one, is that the difference from GM-driven play, and from some typical D&D play, isn't just a matter of ethos. Of course ethos is part of it (that's what an agenda and principles are, at their core) but the ethos is spelled out in detail, and it interacts with the technical rules for action resolution in particular ways that combine to yield the overall play experience.

To even think about replicating this in D&D play, you'd first have to ask how would I implement seduce/manipulate, or seize by force (beyond just inflicting hp of damage)? I don't think that's a trivial question. As far as I know the only version of D&D to come close to doing this is 4e, via skill challenges; and skill challenges are scene-based resolution and so quite different from AW's if you do it, you do it.
I think the answer is a great example of what is unsatisfying and/or limiting about DnD 5e for some, and satsifying and/or a boon to versatility for others. Because how you'd implement either of those moves is simply by allowing them as DM, and making it clear ahead of time that when the PCs do something it will be honored and used to move forward, whether they succeed or fail. You don't create mechanics for it, unless you really want to or just have a fun idea for mechanics for it, you just do it, you play the game that way.

If that works for you, then 5e is going to be a versatile game engine from which you make your own DnD. If it doesn't, 5e is likely to either be unsatisfying in general, or only useful for the things it explicitly and directly does with specific mechanics.

OTOH, if you have been in a dnd game run in a player-driven manner where actions are always taken as real and honored by using them to drive the game forward, where the players can take actions that then obligate the DM to do something appropriate to the action as it relates to established fiction, but you don't like the nearly free-form improvisational manner in which DnD 5e play can accommodate that, pbta games are probably going to be really good for you.
 

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innerdude

Legend
Tossing my hat back in the ring for as second ---

Quick note for @Faolyn -- Powered by the Apocalypse / Forged in the Dark games didn't fully make sense to me until I played Ironsworn.

Honestly, if you want to really get a feel for what it should feel like, pick up the free Ironsworn PDF and try running a solo adventure just for yourself using the basic premises, principles, and the "oracles" provided. It's completely designed to handle a game where you are playing solo by yourself, with no GM. Or try it with one other player using the "No GM" mode together.

If you can do that for 1.5-3 hours and find the results to be engaging and compelling, you're on the right track.

For me, that's exactly what I did before I presented Ironsworn to my players. And it completely unlocked the mindset for me of the way it should be played.

What @chaochou and @Ovinomancer are saying is that there's an approach and mindset to PbtA / FitD play that isn't always readily apparent from reading the rules. You can read/hear/comprehend the principles and approaches, and have a relatively good notion of what play should look like, but it was the actual play of Ironsworn where I was finally able to grasp what the mindset of play looks like in the moment.

You have to have the ability to frame a situation in your mind based on the fiction that has preceded the current moment, derive possible outcomes and path branches, and then fully commit to bringing the fiction back in line with the outcomes of your choices, moves, and fate (dice). You cannot hold to any preconceived idea of what "was" or what "should be." There is only the inevitable "what is now", being informed by the entire cycle of play.

If that sounds too "meta" compared to what you're used to, it's because, as mentioned, the in-the-moment mindset during play bears almost no resemblance to the mindset during a game of D&D.

And that can be good or bad, depending on your preferences!

In context of a "mystery" / investigation scenario, they're exactly right --- in PbtA, key components of the entire scenario may change and change drastically as the result of any number inputs based on adhering to the principles of play. And there are reasons for that to be the case. As a GM you have to be willing to completely withhold judgment / keep ideas hanging in the balance until scenes and moves play out in front of you. Only then can you fully put the transpiring events back into context and shape the fiction to fit the new reality of what is happening to your character now.

It really is hard to explain in words. Like I said, for me, playing Ironsworn solo is what unlocked the appropriate mental state / approach in ways that had never happened previously with Dungeon World.

A mystery/investigation in a PbtA game has almost nothing to do with the "sussing out what actually happened and feeling awesome about what great detectives we are," a la Hercule Poirot. It's more about, "what does the outcome and influence of the events that transpired during this investigation have to do with who my character is, what is challenging his/her core beliefs and place in the world, and what will it drive him/her to do next?"

Obviously Ironsworn has differences in presentation and mechanics compared to "stock" Apocalypse World and Blades in the Dark, but the overall approaches and mindset should carry over ~95% directly to other PbtA / FitD systems. However, if you're the type of player that finds typical "GM procedural investigations + players in actor stance" gameplay to be the ultimate realization of RPG greatness, truthfully you'll probably bounce off of PbtA / FitD pretty hard.

One final note --- be careful poking @Ovinomancer and @chaochou (and @pemerton and @Manbearcat for that matter) about how much they do or don't understand about running "D&D". They probably understand better than most just exactly what D&D's strengths and weaknesses are. Assessing their comments about D&D and coming to the conclusion that "Well, they probably just had crappy GMs" is well-meaningly misguided at best, and laughably uninformed at worst. But let that pass!

TL;DR -- Try Ironsworn, if you like it, you'll probably find PbtA games to your liking.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I'm sorry, but to me, you sound defensive. Especially when I keep asking for what the rules would be and you keep bring up Monopoly and Austria, as if they have anything to do with the question I have.
Okay, I guess I can't stop you. 🤷
I mean, seriously, if there are no mechanics for such a thing in AW, then just say so. Say "you can investigate a crime scene, but there's no Moves for it. Instead, it's pure roleplay between you and the MC. Other PbtA games have Moves for it, though," I would fully accept that. But as it is, it feels like you don't want to say this.

As it turns out, because of what other people have said, no, you can't do an investigation in AW. @Aldarc pointed out that there was such a rule in MotW.
Of course you can do investigations in AW. They just don't look anything like what you're trying to insist an investigation looks like. People investigate things in AW all the time. It's not a calm examination of a crime scene looking for ways to get the GM to tell you clues, though. Which is why I keep bringing up Monopoly and Risk -- you can't play Risk with Monopoly rules. This is so obvious that it seems a very silly thing to say, but here we are.
Not at all. Renown scores how well you're known to others based on your actions. Loyalty determines how loyal people are to you based on your actions. None of those have anything to do with how well you align your play to what I "expect," and instead work in much the same way the Hx ability seems to work, only with organizations and NPCs instead of other PCs.
No, renown scores how well the GM thinks NPCs react to your actions. There are no others, here, just the GM. Let's get down to brass tacks about how these systems work in 5e -- they exist as substitutes for alignment that are entirely dependent on the GM's take on things. This can be made perfectly obvious by asking if players can increase their renown score on their own, because they think it should go up. Of course they cannot, only the GM grants renown points.
No, I haven't. I think you have a very skewed idea of how other games are supposed to work.
Okay. I mean, we're in a discussion where I'm trying to explain how AW works to you, and I have decades of experience with D&D and similar systems (like CoC). I talk about how games work quite a lot. I think the difference here is that you're quite used to games where the GM retains almost all of the authority in the system and so don't really question it because it's the normal. I did that for quite some time as well. Now I can tell when systems are gated by GM says. I still like quite a few of them, so I don't view it as a detriment, just how it works.
I've given several examples already of what an investigation means for the character. Here they area again: a loved one was killed or is a suspect; the killer has made it personal; the killer will strike again unless you stop it and you don't want any more blood on your hands. Can you explain to me why these would have no meaning for a character?
Clearly they would, but this isn't sufficient for finding out how it would play in a given PbtA system because these are pretty much at the level of background interest a game like D&D or CoC has -- it's interesting, perhaps a reasonable explanation for PC involvement, but it doesn't work to drive a dramatic tension. These are relationships to the deceased, not to the investigation. So, a good start, but we need more.
For that matter, can you explain what would have meaning for a character? Because I'm still not getting what you mean.
No, because I'm not arguing what has meaning for a character, I'm saying you haven't provided a sufficient level of meaning for a AW scene. You need a dramatic conflict. Looking for the GM to tell you about clues to what the GM's notes say about the murder is both insufficient and also like trying to invade Australia from Park Place -- it doesn't make a lick of sense in the context of what the game is about.
Go with this: one or more people have died. At least one of those people was known to and cared about by a PC. There's some evidence that the killer murdered this person to rile up the PC. Investigation--whether through talking to people, doing research, or examining the crime scene--will point the PC to the likely identity of the killer (there are multiple ways the PC can find this info). If the PCs take too long, the killer will either murder someone else or disappear (depending on GM whim), leaving the murder unsolved and the victims without justice/revenge.
Okay, how would you invade Australia from Park Place? This isn't being defensive, or a rant, or anything other than pointing out that you've entirely missed the point when you keep asking these questions. I get that you want to stake the claim that AW (or PbtA in general) don't do a thing, but it's just like complaining that Risk isn't Monopoly. You seem to think that a given scenario common in one kind of play means that it's common or expected in all kinds of play. This is the error, and this is what I'm trying to get you to see -- that situation could not even occur in an AW game, so not having rules to adjudicate it isn't a failing just like not having rules on how to invade Australia from Park Place in Monopoly isn't a failing. It's a category error on your part.

I'll say it again, for clarity: the situation you've describe above could not even occur in an AW game. The premise of the scene and the expected outcomes are alien to the conceptual basis of the game. Dead people? Interest in whodunnit? Consequences for dawdling? Sure, that can happen, just not at all the way you've presented.


Again, these is a legitimately serious question here: Is this plot, such as it is, bad or wrong for AW? If it's not a good plot for the game, why? What would be better for the game?
It's bad. It's bad because AW doesn't like plots. You can't run a plot in AW. It fights you, and if you force it, the system will be disappointing and confusing to both the GM and the players because you'll be trying to reconcile what it's telling you to do with what you're forcing on it and that won't reconcile.
No, I am literally asking questions so I can understand how this game works. That's literally the opposite of assuming I know how they work. You aren't explaining it in a way that I can understand, though. Because every time I ask for a simple explanation--what would I roll/what Move would I take/what would I do" in this circumstance, you go off on a completely different tangent.
I didn't say you were assuming you know how it works. I'm saying I'm not the authority here to be questioned -- that's your assumption about how it should work. I'm actually inviting you to consider a new way to think about it, and, so far, you keep asking how to do things that make sense in one but not in the other and resisting every single time you're told it doesn't make sense in the other. I'm sorry my explanations are doing it for you -- it requires you to make the leap of faith at some point. It did for me, and I understand your frustration -- I felt it to for years. Stop and assume that I'm not being defensive, that what I'm saying actually works, and see if you can work around to it that way. This was how I got it, maybe it works for you?
Well, how do you know they're not lacking? Maybe if you used that approach when you played D&D you'd find that the games are a lot more fun. As it is, it seems like you're limiting how you play D&D because you don't think you're supposed to play it in a certain way, or that the game is made for it. For instance, you seem to be under the impression that D&D is supposed to be played in such a way that the players meet the DM's expectations. I have no idea where you got this idea, expect possibly from having less-than-stellar DMs in the past. But you get crappy GMs regardless of system. Maybe if you stopped playing D&D like that, it might be more fun for you.
Because I've tried it. D&D fights back. System matters. I am absolutely limiting how I play D&D, just like I'm absolutely limiting how I play Blades in the Dark. This is normal. I'm not suppose to try to play Monopoly like it's Risk, and RPGs aren't different in kind this way. I play D&D in a way that I have, through trial, error, and long thought, found the game works best with the least additional effort on my part to try to "fix" things. I play Blades with the same approach. I'm playing Aliens with the same approach. I'm playing Kids on Bikes with the same approach (and I've had the most fun creating characters in KoB that I've had with any other game). Limiting how you play a game is extremely normal and should be expected. D&D works best when the GM is in charge, and deploys Force in reasonable amounts to maintain a fun experience for everyone. It doesn't do deep introspective dives on characters, or provide a game framework where you can really explore characters, but it does provide a framework where you can author and express your character for the entertainment of others. You'll never be challenged or have to risk who your character is in D&D, because it's not that type of game. If you are, then you're outside of D&D and winging it. Which is fine, just don't credit D&D for your work.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Tossing my hat back in the ring for as second ---

Quick note for @Faolyn -- Powered by the Apocalypse / Forged in the Dark games didn't fully make sense to me until I played Ironsworn.

Honestly, if you want to really get a feel for what it should feel like, pick up the free Ironsworn PDF and try running a solo adventure just for yourself using the basic premises, principles, and the "oracles" provided. It's completely designed to handle a game where you are playing solo by yourself, with no GM. Or try it with one other player using the "No GM" mode together.

If you can do that for 1.5-3 hours and find the results to be engaging and compelling, you're on the right track.

For me, that's exactly what I did before I presented Ironsworn to my players. And it completely unlocked the mindset for me of the way it should be played.

What @chaochou and @Ovinomancer are saying is that there's an approach and mindset to PbtA / FitD play that isn't always readily apparent from reading the rules. You can read/hear/comprehend the principles and approaches, and have a relatively good notion of what play should look like, but it was the actual play of Ironsworn where I was finally able to grasp what the mindset of play looks like in the moment.

You have to have the ability to frame a situation in your mind based on the fiction that has preceded the current moment, derive possible outcomes and path branches, and then fully commit to bringing the fiction back in line with the outcomes of your choices, moves, and fate (dice). You cannot hold to any preconceived idea of what "was" or what "should be." There is only the inevitable "what is now", being informed by the entire cycle of play.

If that sounds too "meta" compared to what you're used to, it's because, as mentioned, the in-the-moment mindset during play bears almost no resemblance to the mindset during a game of D&D.

And that can be good or bad, depending on your preferences!

In context of a "mystery" / investigation scenario, they're exactly right --- in PbtA, key components of the entire scenario may change and change drastically as the result of any number inputs based on adhering to the principles of play. And there are reasons for that to be the case. As a GM you have to be willing to completely withhold judgment / keep ideas hanging in the balance until scenes and moves play out in front of you. Only then can you fully put the transpiring events back into context and shape the fiction to fit the new reality of what is happening to your character now.

It really is hard to explain in words. Like I said, for me, playing Ironsworn solo is what unlocked the appropriate mental state / approach in ways that had never happened previously with Dungeon World.

A mystery/investigation in a PbtA game has almost nothing to do with the "sussing out what actually happened and feeling awesome about what great detectives we are," a la Hercule Poirot. It's more about, "what does the outcome and influence of the events that transpired during this investigation have to do with who my character is, what is challenging his/her core beliefs and place in the world, and what will it drive him/her to do next?"

Obviously Ironsworn has differences in presentation and mechanics compared to "stock" Apocalypse World and Blades in the Dark, but the overall approaches and mindset should carry over ~95% directly to other PbtA / FitD systems. However, if you're the type of player that finds typical "GM procedural investigations + players in actor stance" gameplay to be the ultimate realization of RPG greatness, truthfully you'll probably bounce off of PbtA / FitD pretty hard.
Great stuff.
One final note --- be careful poking @Ovinomancer and @chaochou (and @pemerton and @Manbearcat for that matter) about how much they do or don't understand about running "D&D". They probably understand better than most just exactly what D&D's strengths and weaknesses are. Assessing their comments about D&D and coming to the conclusion that "Well, they probably just had crappy GMs" is well-meaningly misguided at best, and laughably uninformed at worst. But let that pass!
Thanks. I don't consider myself to be exceptional at D&D (or any game), but I do try to say exactly what I mean and take the game as it is rather than an idealized version that doesn't actually exist.
TL;DR -- Try Ironsworn, if you like it, you'll probably find PbtA games to your liking.
Again, closing with great stuff!
 

Campbell

Legend
@Faolyn

I feel like you are trying to understand Apocalypse World based on the player facing side of the game. That's like trying to read tea leaves. The core of the game is in the MC chapter. The core process of how to make GM Moves, what prep looks like, your agenda and principles. That's the fundamental stuff. Apocalypse World has a GM ethos it depends on. If you have access to the text I recommend reading that first. Some people will say it's what good GMs already do naturally. Some GMs run other games in a similar manner, but it's far from the norm in my experience.

This might help as well.
 

Go with this: one or more people have died. At least one of those people was known to and cared about by a PC. There's some evidence that the killer murdered this person to rile up the PC. Investigation--whether through talking to people, doing research, or examining the crime scene--will point the PC to the likely identity of the killer (there are multiple ways the PC can find this info). If the PCs take too long, the killer will either murder someone else or disappear (depending on GM whim), leaving the murder unsolved and the victims without justice/revenge.

Again, these is a legitimately serious question here: Is this plot, such as it is, bad or wrong for AW? If it's not a good plot for the game, why? What would be better for the game?

So in the spirit of constructive conversation, let’s say this:

If I was MC and in the course of play - maybe because of provocative questions or maybe during setup - a player said their Hocus was having a hard time because people they knew were being killed, that would be really cool and interesting and would lead to crazy stuff, no question. And we‘d see what was up with that as a group.

But if I, as MC, imposed it on the Hocus and expected them to solve it, that would suck hard.

Who gets to say is at least as important as what is said. It’s central to play. Don’t assume the MC has authority to do what you’re saying they can. I don’t see anything which lets the MC write and impose the plot you describe.

But again - it’s not bad by virtue of the concept itself (murderer on the loose). It’s the conception of it by a player which makes it work, or not.
 

Faolyn

Hero
Of course you can do investigations in AW. They just don't look anything like what you're trying to insist an investigation looks like.
I am not trying to insist an investigation looks like anything. I'm trying to find out how AW does it.

People investigate things in AW all the time. It's not a calm examination of a crime scene looking for ways to get the GM to tell you clues, though. Which is why I keep bringing up Monopoly and Risk -- you can't play Risk with Monopoly rules. This is so obvious that it seems a very silly thing to say, but here we are.
So why won't you tell me how they're run? How do people look for clues in AW? Do the PCs make the clues up? You keep bringing up Monopoly and Risk, but what I really want you to bring up is how you do it. This'd be, what, the fourth time I've asked? Is there a reason you won't answer? You say "people investigate things in AW all the time." How?

When you break the limits of how a game is "supposed" to be played, I find it becomes more fun. Which is probably why somebody on Reddit invented Riskopoly. (And someone else invented Settlers of Riskopoly.)

No, renown scores how well the GM thinks NPCs react to your actions. There are no others, here, just the GM. Let's get down to brass tacks about how these systems work in 5e -- they exist as substitutes for alignment that are entirely dependent on the GM's take on things. This can be made perfectly obvious by asking if players can increase their renown score on their own, because they think it should go up. Of course they cannot, only the GM grants renown points.
From what I can tell, in AW, the book tells you how NPCs react to your actions. The only difference is that you get to pick from a list of reactions, right? One of this is you roll 7-9, or 3 if you roll 10+. How is this actually different in the long run? You may get to choose from a list of options, but it all boils down to how well you rolled. Does this mean you'd be happy if D&D had a rule where if you roll above a certain DC, you get +1 renown?

In probably most games, the player can and will say "I'm going to try to intimidate him so he'll move out of the way/give me the thing/tell me what I want to know/tell his friends I'm really scary."

I dunno. Maybe all the other games you've played have been, the GM tells you what's up and only lets you do certain actions when it's your turn. But that's certainly not how I've ever played it.

Okay. I mean, we're in a discussion where I'm trying to explain how AW works to you, and I have decades of experience with D&D and similar systems (like CoC). I talk about how games work quite a lot. I think the difference here is that you're quite used to games where the GM retains almost all of the authority in the system and so don't really question it because it's the normal. I did that for quite some time as well. Now I can tell when systems are gated by GM says. I still like quite a few of them, so I don't view it as a detriment, just how it works.
That's so weird. The only time I've played in games where the GM was the sole authority was in this one Changeling: the Dreaming game where the Storyteller was a terrible railroader (because of which, the game lasted one session). Two or three sessions ago in my current D&D game, the players went on a completely different path than anything I prepared for. I certainly didn't stop them. They took authority there. I had to improvise like mad to keep up, but I went with them. As a DM, I tell my players what the world is like and let them do what they want with it.

You can say "don't credit D&D with your work," but that sounds like you're saying that if I ran a good game with AW, I shouldn't credit that system either. If I'm a good GM, then it's not because of the rules I'm using. It's because I'm making a good world to play in and having good players who engage.

No, because I'm not arguing what has meaning for a character, I'm saying you haven't provided a sufficient level of meaning for a AW scene. You need a dramatic conflict. Looking for the GM to tell you about clues to what the GM's notes say about the murder is both insufficient and also like trying to invade Australia from Park Place -- it doesn't make a lick of sense in the context of what the game is about.
So basically, don't do anything unless there's action. No background stuff, nothing to indicate a bigger world unless it directly affects the PCs, no trying to figure out what's going on, no having anything that the players actually have to figure out on their own, no letting characters just talk to each other unless there's a possibility they'll roll dice at each other. It has to be conflict conflict conflict all the time.

Okay, how would you invade Australia from Park Place?
See, this is really pissing me off. Instead of just answering my questions, you're telling me "no." Just flat-out no. And when I ask why not, you say "because." You aren't providing me with examples of proper ways to play. You aren't even telling me what sort of adventure would be best for AW.

This is not how you convince someone to play AW.

It is, however, how you convince me not to try to play AW, and to think twice about playing other PbtA games.
 


Faolyn

Hero
So in the spirit of constructive conversation, let’s say this:

If I was MC and in the course of play - maybe because of provocative questions or maybe during setup - a player said their Hocus was having a hard time because people they knew were being killed, that would be really cool and interesting and would lead to crazy stuff, no question. And we‘d see what was up with that as a group.

But if I, as MC, imposed it on the Hocus and expected them to solve it, that would suck hard.

Who gets to say is at least as important as what is said. It’s central to play. Don’t assume the MC has authority to do what you’re saying they can. I don’t see anything which lets the MC write and impose the plot you describe.

But again - it’s not bad by virtue of the concept itself (murderer on the loose). It’s the conception of it by a player which makes it work, or not.
Thank you.

However, another question. The book has "Threat Maps" and "Countdown Clocks", says that the MC has absolute control over the NPCs, and encourages the MC to make changes to the threat map between games.

So if I put a murder in one part of the map and say that another murder is going to take place at 9:00, that's OK, right? And the closer I put the murder to the PCs on the threat map, the more closer it should be to those PCs, yes?

If I'm correct here, this is what I've been talking about this whole time. I honestly don't know why everyone is assuming I'm saying "there's a murder; Bob, you must solve it."
 

Grendel_Khan

Adventurer
See, this is really pissing me off. Instead of just answering my questions, you're telling me "no." Just flat-out no. And when I ask why not, you say "because." You aren't providing me with examples of proper ways to play. You aren't even telling me what sort of adventure would be best for AW.

This is not how you convince someone to play AW.

It is, however, how you convince me not to try to play AW, and to think twice about playing other PbtA games.

I mean...maybe you shouldn't? It's no one's job here to wrestle you into trying something you seem less interested in trying than challenging. Every so often you drop in a question that you present as being sincere, but a lot of what you've written in this thread has read as pretty confrontational to me, like you want people to prove to you that AW actually is a different approach, and that it has merit. It comes across as a kind of attempted debunking of PbtA as unique. But then when it's explained in detail to you what, in fact, is very different from trad games, including by people who are clearly very knowledgeable about and experienced with both trad and story now games, you alternate between pushing back aggressively and proclaiming that you just don't get it.

I'm not saying that you're communicating in bad faith, but I'm not sure what else there is to say, or how anyone would have the patience to keep discussing this with you, given the tone you set early on, and that you're still contributing to.

And we all know by now that Ovinomancer loves a scrap. At this point, that seems like the main thing you're looking for, too.
 
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pemerton

Legend
@GrahamWills

I don't see why AW couldn't be used to approach a mystery in which the GM has already set up a clock - eg as per my post upthread, a countdown until the kidnappers execute Isle clock.

Here is p 143 of the AW rulebook:

Countdown Clocks
A countdown clock is a reminder to you as MC that your threats have impulse, direction, plans, intentions, the will to sustain action and to respond coherently to others’.​
When you create a threat, if you have a vision of its future, give it a countdown clock. You can also add countdown clocks to threats you’ve already created.​
Around the clock, note some things that’ll happen:​
• Before 9:00, that thing’s coming, but preventable. What are the clues? What are the triggers? What are the steps?​
• Between 9:00 and 12:00, that thing is inevitable, but there’s still time to brace for impact. What signifies it?​
• At 12:00, the threat gets its full, active expression. What is it?​
As you play, advance the clocks, each at their own pace, by marking their segments.​
Countdown clocks are both descriptive and prescriptive. Descriptive: when something you’ve listed happens, advance the clock to that point. Prescriptive: when you advance the clock otherwise, it causes the things you’ve listed. Furthermore, countdown clocks can be derailed: when something happens that changes circumstances so that the countdown no longer makes sense, just scribble it out.​
For the most part, list things that are beyond the players’ characters’ control: NPCs’ decisions and actions, conditions in a population or a landscape, off-screen relations between rival compounds, the instability of a window into the world’s psychic maelstrom. When you list something within the players’ characters’ control, always list it with an “if,” implied or explicit: “if Bish goes out into the ruins,” not “Bish goes out into the ruins.” Prep circumstances, pressures, developing NPC actions, not (and again, I’m not f*****g around here) NOT future scenes you intend to lead the PCs to.​

This then feeds into the making of moves by the GM in the usual way: say what honesty and your prep demand.

The use of a countdown clock won't change the dynamics of AW - the principles remain what they are; and the player-side moves remain what they are. So because there is no move when you wait patiently to see what turns up but there is a move when you go aggro on someone, I still think it is going to play out more like The Maltese Falcon and less like Poirot.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I am not trying to insist an investigation looks like anything. I'm trying to find out how AW does it.


So why won't you tell me how they're run? How do people look for clues in AW? Do the PCs make the clues up? You keep bringing up Monopoly and Risk, but what I really want you to bring up is how you do it. This'd be, what, the fourth time I've asked? Is there a reason you won't answer? You say "people investigate things in AW all the time." How?
I think this has been explained. You have a scene with a threat or obstacle prominent, the player declares what their PC does, this usually triggers a move, you resolve the move, and iterate. If this tells the story of an investigation, it's an investigation. There's no one way this happens.
When you break the limits of how a game is "supposed" to be played, I find it becomes more fun. Which is probably why somebody on Reddit invented Riskopoly. (And someone else invented Settlers of Riskopoly.)
Okay. You seem to be putting a lot more effort into finding a way around the example rather than paying attention to the point it's trying to make.
From what I can tell, in AW, the book tells you how NPCs react to your actions. The only difference is that you get to pick from a list of reactions, right? One of this is you roll 7-9, or 3 if you roll 10+. How is this actually different in the long run? You may get to choose from a list of options, but it all boils down to how well you rolled. Does this mean you'd be happy if D&D had a rule where if you roll above a certain DC, you get +1 renown?
I have no idea what move you're talking about, here. In AW, you have Go Aggro, where you make threats of violence. On a 10+ the NPC or PC can either go along with you or force your hand and suck up the result. On a 7-10, there's a list of possible actions, two of which are the 10+ ones. On a miss, well, it's not going your way. For the move Seduce/Manipulate, you have to give a reason for the to do the thing you want, and the roll determines if they buy it or not and to what degree. These don't work like picking a reaction from a list, they involve the PC risking something (either having to do violence or provide a good reason) and the results are either great, okay, or suck.

Your comparison to a mechanic where you roll for renown is not remotely similar. Nothing is risked, there's no action involved, and there's no consequence for failure.
In probably most games, the player can and will say "I'm going to try to intimidate him so he'll move out of the way/give me the thing/tell me what I want to know/tell his friends I'm really scary."
Yeah, you can do this in AW, it's the move "go aggro." What most games do if you fail this move (and by most games I'm assuming D&D here) is, well nothing. If you succeed, it's up the GM as to what actually happens -- it might fail anyway because the GM has in the notes this NPC can't be intimidated (see the Burgermaster in Vallaki). In AW, though, when you go aggro, something is going to happen that involves you commuting violence because that's what's been offered. Maybe the guy backs down, maybe they force your hand, or maybe you have to make an example to get the point across, or maybe you start a fight that's risky for you and not what you want. Whatever the result on the die, the result in the fiction is going to be felt.

This is a big point of difference in games like AW from D&D -- actions change things, there and then, and create new fictions. The spread is such that your chance of outright success is pretty low, so you'll rarely straight out succeed (unlike D&D games) and complications and issues begin to accrue which then drive play further afield. You can't prep this, you have to roll with it.
I dunno. Maybe all the other games you've played have been, the GM tells you what's up and only lets you do certain actions when it's your turn. But that's certainly not how I've ever played it.
I assure you this is highly incorrect. It's not even correct for D&D, by the rules or how I play it (which is mostly by the rules).
That's so weird. The only time I've played in games where the GM was the sole authority was in this one Changeling: the Dreaming game where the Storyteller was a terrible railroader (because of which, the game lasted one session). Two or three sessions ago in my current D&D game, the players went on a completely different path than anything I prepared for. I certainly didn't stop them. They took authority there. I had to improvise like mad to keep up, but I went with them. As a DM, I tell my players what the world is like and let them do what they want with it.
Nope. 5e features the GM as the sole authority over everything in the game except some character related choices and the ability to declare thoughts, feelings, and actions for PCs. It's right there in the rules. CoC is the same. At no point do players have any authority over framing, setting, or outcomes unless granted by the GM (and equally revocable). The GM retains the final veto and is not actually bound by any rule or player declaration in any way. This is what a game where the GM retains almost all authority looks like. Most people that GM these games are pretty good at sharing, but it's important to note that this sharing is GM to player and exists as sharing because it's in the GM's authority to do so, not the players.

Being open and honest about authority distribution in games is a crucial step to understanding how a different distribution can result in a different game. 4e had a different distribution, as did 3e (at least as played, by the rules the GM still did have explicit rule 0). These games play differently from 5e because of this. And yet, these are all still pretty similar (well, 4e if played with certain principles of play did deviate strongly, but a lot of people played it like older editions anyway). When you get to really different distributions, games are notably different. If you're trying to understand a game like AW while holding on to the idea that the GM is suppose to prep things or have a plan for play and the players are mostly taking actions to uncover that, you're going to find yourself deeply confused about what the game is trying to do. And that's because it's not trying to do anything like that at all.
You can say "don't credit D&D with your work," but that sounds like you're saying that if I ran a good game with AW, I shouldn't credit that system either. If I'm a good GM, then it's not because of the rules I'm using. It's because I'm making a good world to play in and having good players who engage.
No, I'm saying don't credit D&D for work you have to do to come up with new rules or patches or whatever. D&D didn't create your houseruled way to deal with interpersonal affairs, you did. If you're playing 5e by the book, credit should go to 5e. The issue I see is that people take the work they do to houserule the game into a shape they prefer and then say it's D&D. It's not, it's your game, take pride.
So basically, don't do anything unless there's action. No background stuff, nothing to indicate a bigger world unless it directly affects the PCs, no trying to figure out what's going on, no having anything that the players actually have to figure out on their own, no letting characters just talk to each other unless there's a possibility they'll roll dice at each other. It has to be conflict conflict conflict all the time.
Yes, actually. And no. The bigger world is expressed through the complications and moves the GM makes. Fronts are there to express this, and you advance Fronts when it makes sense to or as part of a complication or consequence. I get where you're trying to go here -- it's not an uncommon opinion that if the GM isn't doing solo play with the setting and revealing that to the players that the setting lacks depth and doesn't feel full. This isn't true, and anyone that's grokked these games will refute this statement strongly. So, again, we're at a point where a leap of faith is required -- either we're all stupid and/or lying or it actually does work. I can't help you make this choice.
See, this is really pissing me off. Instead of just answering my questions, you're telling me "no." Just flat-out no. And when I ask why not, you say "because." You aren't providing me with examples of proper ways to play. You aren't even telling me what sort of adventure would be best for AW.
Because there's millions of possible permutations. And there's no sort of adventure that would be best for AW, because "adventure" implies prepped plots or paths, both of which are counterindicated.

In the Blades game I'm playing in right now, we've done smuggling, confronted horrors in the deathlands, released a elder God, fought a vampire cult in a secret war, stolen experimental weapons and sold them back to their rightful owners, taken over a distillery and run it as a business, convinced the paper that we weren't a criminal smuggling organization but instead champions for the downtrodden fighting against a corrupt management class that used gangs to enforce their wants through violent suppression, actually been champions for the downtrodden fighting against a corrupt management class that used gangs to enforce their wants through violent suppression while at the same time being a criminal smuggling organization, dealt with a possessed inspector that was controlling a city council member through sex and was blackmailing us, and a few other things. That's in, what, about 12 sessions? And in the game you stated was just about heists.
This is not how you convince someone to play AW.
I don't care to convince to you play AW. I'm happy to talk about how it works, and help understanding grow for interested people (look at my exchanges with @Grendel_Khan). But convince you to play it? No.
It is, however, how you convince me not to try to play AW, and to think twice about playing other PbtA games.
I can't help that, really. You've been told a number of times by lots of posters how it's supposed to work, but keep circling back to this one example and insisting that we explain how it does this one thing. It doesn't do it like you're asking. I've said how it does do it, others have said, but you don't think we have. Okay. I'll be happy to try more, but I think you might need to adjust your approach, because it seems confrontational and expecting us to explain it to you in a way you expect rather than how it is. I'll be happy to continue if you're interested, or ask of any of the other posters that have expressed such an interest. It doesn't have to be me.

But, in retrospect, let's note that it's been you that's accused me of being defensive, that you've said my game must be lacking, and that you've questioned my ability to run D&D or even other games. I've done none of these things toward you.
 


Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I mean...maybe you shouldn't? It's no one's job here to wrestle you into trying something you seem less interested in trying than challenging. Every so often you drop in a question that you present as being sincere, but a lot of what you've written in this thread has read as pretty confrontational to me, like you want people to prove to you that AW actually is a different approach, and that it has merit. It comes across as a kind of attempted debunking of PbtA as unique. But then when it's explained in detail to you what, in fact, is very different from trad games, including by people who are clearly very knowledgeable about and experienced with both trad and story now games, you alternate between pushing back aggressively and proclaiming that you just don't get it.

I'm not saying that you're communicating in bad faith, but I'm not sure what else there is to say, or how anyone would have the patience to keep discussing this with you, given the tone you set early on, and that you're still contributing to.

And we all know by now that Ovinomancer loves a scrap. At this point, that seems like the main thing you're looking for, too.
Fair.
 


Faolyn

Hero
"I've only played D&D and D&D-alikes, I don't plan to play RPGs outside of D&D and D&D-alikes, and I have certainly never played this particular RPG but am going to critique it anyway." @Ovinomancer, why do you do this to yourself?
I assume you're talking about me. I guess that me playing and GMing Fate, Cypher, GURPS, TOON, oWoD, CoC, d6 system games, homebrew games, and probably dozens of other systems over the course of 30+ years count as "not planning on playing RPGs outside of D&D"?

I asked Ovinomancer questions because I wanted to understand how to play this game. For whatever reason, they refused to answer me, refused to say what about my assumptions were wrong (just that they were), or to show me what the correct methods are. I must have asked how do I do this? half a dozen times. They didn't even bother to link me to a site that explains it!

What, is the AW rulebook holy writ that must never be questioned? Is this a cult? Are you told to shun those who don't immediately see the light? What's going on here?
 

Faolyn

Hero
Out of curiosity - are you reading my replies to you? Which have addressed this in detail, with some worked examples of how a mystery might work in Apocalypse World?
They likely got buried among the people yelling at me for not instantly understanding the game. I'll go back and check them out.
 

pemerton

Legend
Go with this: one or more people have died. At least one of those people was known to and cared about by a PC. There's some evidence that the killer murdered this person to rile up the PC. Investigation--whether through talking to people, doing research, or examining the crime scene--will point the PC to the likely identity of the killer (there are multiple ways the PC can find this info). If the PCs take too long, the killer will either murder someone else or disappear (depending on GM whim), leaving the murder unsolved and the victims without justice/revenge.

Again, these is a legitimately serious question here: Is this plot, such as it is, bad or wrong for AW? If it's not a good plot for the game, why? What would be better for the game?
I'm going to ignore your reference to plot - given that in multiple places the AW rulebook tells the GM not to pre-author a plot (eg pp 108-9, 143).

So first, how is it being established that one or more people have died? You seem to be envisaging that the GM is making this part of the fiction: what move are they performing? In what context? Is the GM providing information following success on an attempt of a PC to open their brain to the world's psychic maelstrom? Or is this a hard move - the GM, looking through crosshairs, is telling a player that a NPC has died? (In front of them here-and-now? As a vision following a failed opening of the brain? Some other context?) Or is the GM announcing offscreen badness like my example of Isle not being where the PC hoped to meet her?

Next, how does the evidence that the killer murdered the person to rile up the PC get introduced? Is the GM announcing future badness (eg pinned to the body is a half-torn sheet of paper with You're next, Marie! written in blood)? Or is this a case of the GM asking a provocative question and building on the answer: GM: Why do you think they kidnapped Isle? Marie's player: To get at me?

Next, investigation. AW has no when you investigate move. No when you work the streets, putting out the word and pumping your sources move. So what action declarations are you envisaging? To me, the most obvious - as I've already posted - are go aggro and seduce/manipulate. AW is at its core a game of interpersonal interaction and conflict, and these are moves that foreground that. The GM will respond to these action declarations as the rules dictate and in accordance with the principles. Eg if a PC goes aggro on one of Dremmer's thugs and asks where's Isle? while waving a shotgun about, and succeeds, then the GM gets to decide what the thug does from the appropriate list of options. This can include answering the PC's question.

If a player declares actions that don't trigger a move, then - as I've posted upthread - the GM follows the agenda and principles and makes appropriate moves - typically soft, but hard if the PC provides an opportunity on a golden plate. I've given examples upthread already in reply to you.

Having the killer kill again is something the GM might do, as an appropriate move (eg more announcement of offscreen badness), perhaps based on a countdown clock. If the GM has established such a clock, then they can't just act "on a whim" - they must say what that prep demands. And the GM can't just have the killer disappear on a whim, either, without regard to the actual rules and principles that govern the play of the game.

I hope that the above is reasonably clear. It's probably also relevant to @GrahamWills's questions upthread.
 

Faolyn

Hero
I mean...maybe you shouldn't? It's no one's job here to wrestle you into trying something you seem less interested in trying than challenging. Every so often you drop in a question that you present as being sincere, but a lot of what you've written in this thread has read as pretty confrontational to me, like you want people to prove to you that AW actually is a different approach, and that it has merit. It comes across as a kind of attempted debunking of PbtA as unique. But then when it's explained in detail to you what, in fact, is very different from trad games, including by people who are clearly very knowledgeable about and experienced with both trad and story now games, you alternate between pushing back aggressively and proclaiming that you just don't get it.
I am literally asking how the rules work. I am fully aware that this isn't a "traditional" RPG, and thus I want to find out what the differences are and how they're played. But everyone is treating me as if I'm some sort of idiot for not immediately understanding the rules.

If I'm pushing back, it's because Ovinomancer and others seem to me to have this mentality that "other games" are somehow lesser because they don't work like PbtA games are. Like when Helpful NPC Thorn said I must only have experience playing D&D. That may not be their intent, but that's how I'm reading what they're writing.

And I would have loved to have stayed on-topic--which is "I don't understand this game, please explain it to me"--but every time I do, I get chided because everyone assumes that I must be some sort of railroading D&D GM who forces players to solve mysteries. I've even been told that my preference for prepping games is bad for running my preferred genre!
 

Faolyn

Hero
I'm going to ignore your reference to plot - given that in multiple places the AW rulebook tells the GM not to pre-author a plot (eg pp 108-9, 143).

So first, how is it being established that one or more people have died? You seem to be envisaging that the GM is making this part of the fiction: what move are they performing? In what context? Is the GM providing information following success on an attempt of a PC to open their brain to the world's psychic maelstrom? Or is this a hard move - the GM, looking through crosshairs, is telling a player that a NPC has died? (In front of them here-and-now? As a vision following a failed opening of the brain? Some other context?) Or is the GM announcing offscreen badness like my example of Isle not being where the PC hoped to meet her?
Maybe they hear people talking about it. Maybe they come across a body. Maybe someone sends them a head in the mail. Maybe they hear that their loved one has been arrested. Maybe, yes, a PC decided to open their brain and learns that way.

Next, how does the evidence that the killer murdered the person to rile up the PC get introduced? Is the GM announcing future badness (eg pinned to the body is a half-torn sheet of paper with You're next, Marie! written in blood)? Or is this a case of the GM asking a provocative question and building on the answer: GM: Why do you think they kidnapped Isle? Marie's player: To get at me?
That would depend entirely on how the PCs act and who the killer is and, well, how I want the story to go down. You're next, Marie makes for one type of game. A head in the mail or a body put in the PC's bed is another type.

Could I ask the PC why think this happened? Yes, of course, but "to get at me" is kind of cliched. To get at you why? Should the PC really be able to know what the killer's motives were right away?

Next, investigation. AW has no when you investigate move. No when you work the streets, putting out the word and pumping your sources move. So what action declarations are you envisaging? To me, the most obvious - as I've already posted - are go aggro and seduce/manipulate. AW is at its core a game of interpersonal interaction and conflict, and these are moves that foreground that.
I find it bothersome that there's no other options here. No just talking to people. No putting out the word move--presumably, pumping your sources would be going aggro.

I appreciate these questions and I find them helpful. Thanks!
 

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