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thoughts on Apocalypse World?

I could be off-target here, but my overly brief sense of the main difference between investigation in many (most) trad games and investigation in something like PbtA or FitD is that the latter are not interested in dead ends. They either skip right past them or mechanically turn what might be a dead-end scene in another game into a surprise plot twist or revelation.

Does that sound right? In a sense, it seems like that's a main, overarching feature of Story Now games--get to the conflict already.

If you mean that in a more traditional game, where the GM has already predetermined who did it and what the clues are that may be discovered that will point the players to the culprit, and then the players for whatever reason are spending their time chasing info in a location that has nothing to do with anything.....then yeah, that should not be happening in a PbtA/FitD type game.

A traditional game doesn't care why the players are searching the billiard room instead of the kitchen or the conservatory, all the traditional game cares about is that there are no clues to be found in the billiard room..they're all in the kitchen and conservatory! I've played and run scenes where the players are just spinning their wheels trying to find something that isn't there. Eventually, once all the possible actions have been attempted and rolls made, the players will decide there's nothing there and move on. Or perhaps the GM may actually say "After exhausting all efforts, you realize that there is nothing to be found in the billiard room".

Which then may make you wonder why the GM didn't just say that at the start......and I think that's a good question. It's the kind of thing about traditional games that would frustrate me, and ultimately led me to looking at other games. Think about this.....the end result of searching the billiard room if you succeed at every roll is exactly the same as if you fail at every roll. Literally nothing has changed, and who knows how much time may have been spent on this. Different GMs may speed this up, others may let it play out as long as it takes....but either way, this seems to be a failing of that kind of system. Why waste all that time on something that won't matter?

In a PbtA/FitD type game, the GM is meant to ask the players why the PCs are investigating the billiard room, and then shape what happens based on those answers and on the results of the rolls. So they may still wind up finding nothing of use in the billiard room if the rolls don't go their way....but something will happen. The system will produce outcomes by prompting the GM to make moves or to inflict consequences. And if the rolls go well, then there will be progress of some kind, usually based on fiction that's already been established or by the players' stated intent of their actions.

In this way, I've found that it kind of works opposite from the traditional approach. Instead of the GM determining details ahead of time, and kind of determining what skill and what result may be needed to learn the information, instead the player makes a move or chooses an action with a stated goal, and then the GM determines the details based on the chosen move/action and the result of the roll.

Now, I don't think that the GM cannot have any possible ideas about how things will go ahead of time. He may have a feeling for who the culprit may be (based on previously established fiction, mostly). And so he may fold that into the results in some way if it makes sense to do so. This last part is a subtle but significant distinction, I think. @Fenris-77 hints at this kind of thing above with his comments on the duke and his diary.

All of which is a long rambly way of saying yes.....get to the conflict already is a deliberate element of these games.
 

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pemerton

Legend
Warning: long, analytical post incoming!

To continue the discussion of 'mystery' and 'investigation' in Apocalypse World and whether it 'does them', here are some more ideas.

<snip nice examples of Dusk and friends>

So I hope it's clear that mystery and the unknown can easily form a really central element of Apocalypse World play (and hopefully its also clear they usually do in my games).

And I hope it's equally clear that what we're not doing is railroad investigation into stuff the MC has written for the players to 'find out'. Pre-scripted, pre-determined, zero-agency 'learn what's in my notes' play. Jumping through hoops finding scripted 'clues'. There are plenty of games to do that with if you enjoy it - and Apocalypse World isn't one of them.
This post drives home that a RPG is more than just a rule for how to generate random numbers as part of the action resolution process.

The contrary, but mistaken, thought was found in a post upthread by @Faolyn - I stated that Classic Traveller has no read a situation subsystem, and Faolyn replied by pointing out that it has various social skills. The premise of that reply is that what defines Traveller as a rpg is simply its list of potential modifiers to checks - but that we already know what the process of resolution looks like (ie roll a die/dice of the size and number specified by the rules when the GM tells you too; add the bonus from the appropriate list as specified by the rules and/or the GM; compare that to a target number specified by the rules and/or the GM that the player may or may not know; have the GM tell you something about the fiction as the result and/or the rules prompt them to).

With that mistaken assumption in place, the question about how does AW do mysteries? is equivalent to the question what list of bonuses does the game offer to add to rolls, and what sorts of things does the game prompt the GM to tell players after they have made the rolls that the GM calls for. Which then prompts the complaints But why is there no general "investigation" ability? (Ie why is the list of bonuses constrained in a certain way?) And Why can the GM not call for a roll when the situation is not charged?

Whereas probably the most important features of a RPG are its rules for who gets to say what, when, and make it part of the shared fiction. Now it's true that between the early 1980s and the late 1990s almost no RPGs actually stated their rules about this (I choose those cut-off dates because there are earlier RPGs that are clear about this: I think Moldvay Basic and Gygax's AD&D are tolerably clear although the latter is a bit convoluted about it, as is well known; Classic Traveller is clear in places; and then there are late 90s/early 2000s RPGs that are clear like Maelstrom Storytelling, HeroWars, Sorcerer I assume without actually having read it, Burning Wheel, In a Wicked Age, etc). They just assumed that everyone knows that RPGs work as described in the second paragraph of this post.

That's a way to play a RPG, if that's what someone wants. But obviously it puts nearly everything about the shared fiction into the hands of the GM, unless some sort of ad hoc understandings or protocols emerge at the table.

I think the easiest way to bring out how AW is different - and its there in @chaochou's post that I've quoted, and in some of my posts upthread - is to ask how is this bit of content being established as part of the shared fiction? By whom? In accordance with what rule or principle? Because AW is so crystal clear on who gets to say what when, answering those questions in a way that is consistent with what AW says will quickly reveal that the mystery is not going to look or play like a typical CoC module.

We often talk about investigation or mystery in terms of TV, movies and books. In all three of those cases there is a script in play - one that dictates the outcome of the mystery in advance. However, I think it's worth at least considering whether or not that notion actually means anything in terms of whether the show/movie/book was any good or not..
Like you, I think it's easy to exaggerate the importance of pre-authorship. I've certainly heard (is it still accepted fact?) that the script for Casablanca was still being finalised while filming was taking place. And then there's the notorious observation that even Raymond Chandler himself didn't know who had committed one of the killing in the film version of The Big Sleep.

When I've played Cthulhu Dark there have been "loose ends" like that - ie events that certainly took place (because they were part of the shared fiction established in play) and that definitely propelled things forward, but no one at the table has known exactly who caused them or what their precise rationale was. They don't impede the play of the mystery. (And think about playing a typical CoC module: there will be stuff in the module that the players never learn. So for them the experience is always of loose or not fully resolved threads. My experience is that it makes no difference to the sense of mystery if this is true for the GM also. In the CoC case, the players may suppose that the module author tied it all together in what they wrote. In the Cthulhu Dark case I'm describing, everyone knows that we could tie it all together if we wanted to, by writing the additional fiction that would link it all up. But do we need to?)

I could be off-target here, but my overly brief sense of the main difference between investigation in many (most) trad games and investigation in something like PbtA or FitD is that the latter are not interested in dead ends. They either skip right past them or mechanically turn what might be a dead-end scene in another game into a surprise plot twist or revelation.

Does that sound right? In a sense, it seems like that's a main, overarching feature of Story Now games--get to the conflict already.
PbtA and FitD don't script set dressing. There's no "the duke's diary is in the third drawer of his wardrobe" sort of clue salting. The framing of clues is a direct consequence of the players' actions and the fictional positioning. So if the players actually search the Duke's bedroom successfully, you can then feel free to have a diary with some useful content appear because it makes sense that it could be so. Less true if they search a random apple cart in the market. This does indeed obviate the dead end issues experienced in some games, but only as a by product of being interested in other things (like the conflict you mention)
If you mean that in a more traditional game, where the GM has already predetermined who did it and what the clues are that may be discovered that will point the players to the culprit, and then the players for whatever reason are spending their time chasing info in a location that has nothing to do with anything.....then yeah, that should not be happening in a PbtA/FitD type game.

<snip>

In a PbtA/FitD type game, the GM is meant to ask the players why the PCs are investigating the billiard room, and then shape what happens based on those answers and on the results of the rolls. So they may still wind up finding nothing of use in the billiard room if the rolls don't go their way....but something will happen.
I'm responding to this through the lens of AW in particular. (I think DW is close enough in its principles and GM-side moves that it might make sense for DW too.)

Building on what I've said just above, I think the key issue here is what does the GM say when? I think there's no formal objection to the GM preparing a threat clock which includes if such-and-such a thing happens, then the Duke gets his factotum to hide his diary in the billiard room cupboard. I also think there's no formal objection to the GM writing a custom move for the billiard room. Baker gives the example of a custom move (AW p 144):

When you go into Dremmer’s territory, roll+sharp. On a 10+, you can spot and avoid ambush. On a 7–9, you spot the ambush in time to prepare or flee. On a miss, you blunder into it.​

So speaking purely from a formal point of view, the following seems an acceptable custom move:

When you search the billiard room, roll+sharp. On a 10+, you find whatever others have hidden there; the MC will tell you what this is. On a 7-9, you locate something interesting before the Duke's help arrives: you can re-hide it just before they come in, or you can grab it as they enter (they'll see you taking it!). On a miss, you've been caught red handed!​

Moving from the formal to the substantive, though, we have to ask: what would the point of such a custom move be? It rests on a premise that the billiard room and its hidden stuff has the same sort of significance, for play, as does Dremmer's territory and his ambushers. So how would that happen? Well, one of the basic principles is say what prep demands. And one of the GM moves is make a threat move. So if the GM has authored a front and threat in such a way that the billiard room is significant, that should emerge in play via the GM's moves; so that when the PCs are searching the billiard room, the custom move makes sense.

So where I'm heading with these ruminations is here: AW doesn't object to prep. But it has clear principles about who says what when.

Consistently with those principles - and assuming now that there is not a custom move for searching the billiard room - the GM might even say that a search of the billiard room reveals nothing. But that wouldn't be all that the GM says, because that's not a move. So let's suppose that a player has their PC go off to search the billiard room. And (for whatever reason) it's not a charged situation, and there's no one there to interact with. So no player-side move has been triggered, and the GM just makes a move as normal. And that move could be your search of the billiard room reveals nothing; but when you come back home, you find that someone took advantage of your absence to really turn over your place! What do you think they might have found that you'd rather they didn't? (To some extent I'm taking my cue here from the Moves Snowball example of play, where Marie goes back home after Isle collapses.)

Whether what I've just described would be fair play, or crappy (even "gotcha") play, would depend on all the surrounding context. What I'm trying to say is that I don't think it's helpful to say that AW can or can't do fictional situation of such-and-such a sort. Putting to one side basic questions of genre (like maybe we should really be talking about car sheds rather than billiard rooms) I don't think AW puts any limits on the possible fiction.

The key question is always who is getting to establish it, when, in accordance with what rules and principles?
 

Aldarc

Legend
@hawkeyefan's most recent comment has me thinking about broadly be considered "families" of games. Although PbtA and FitD diverge in terms of their design, in some respects, they are commonly regarded as "kin" in terms of their design principles. Likewise, Cortex and Fate diverge considerably in their design architecture, but they share a number of design principles and ideas, so much that there have been Cortex-Fate hybrids. And while BRP and D&D also have different systems, how they distribute authority between the GM and players are fairly similar. So I guess I would potentially be interested in exploring, possibly in another thread, about the different family of games out there, considering not only their "system" but also by their principles.
 

...my overly brief sense of the main difference between investigation in many (most) trad games and investigation in something like PbtA or FitD is that the latter are not interested in dead ends. They either skip right past them or mechanically turn what might be a dead-end scene in another game into a surprise plot twist or revelation.

Does that sound right? In a sense, it seems like that's a main, overarching feature of Story Now games--get to the conflict already.

I think the essence here is correct. The way I look at it, is that if the game truly reacts to the player characters' decisions, choices and actions then there can't be such a thing as a 'dead end'. If we follow them, and they keep moving, we have to end up somewhere.

So in my previous example, what happens if Killzone the Gunlugger suddenly thinks 'How come old man Bleach knows about the assassins at the Clocktower? Let's break into his place and see if he's setting this all up...'

In that case the game goes to a different place, somewhere totally new that no-one considered before. But the key thing is to enjoy that we're seeing something new and interesting about Killzone.

It's the MCs job to be a fan of the characters - which is to say, to be really into the choices they make and ideas they have, the connections they create. It's not just about whether they live or die, succeed or fail, it's about respecting and endorsing how they are being portrayed, and in doing so making that interesting and vivid for them and everyone else.
 

pemerton

Legend
The way I look at it, is that if the game truly reacts to the player characters' decisions, choices and actions then there can't be such a thing as a 'dead end'. If we follow them, and they keep moving, we have to end up somewhere.

So in my previous example, what happens if Killzone the Gunlugger suddenly thinks 'How come old man Bleach knows about the assassins at the Clocktower? Let's break into his place and see if he's setting this all up...'

In that case the game goes to a different place, somewhere totally new that no-one considered before. But the key thing is to enjoy that we're seeing something new and interesting about Killzone.
The bit I've bolded seems especially important. If the GM is doing their job of making moves as they should, there is always something happening - a character separated or captured; or some badness announced; etc - and so dead end just has no salience.

The dead end is a byproduct of RPGs where the GM's move include Nothing happens. What do you do now? That's not a move in AW.
 

The dead end is a byproduct of RPGs where the GM's move include Nothing happens. What do you do now? That's not a move in AW.

And it’s explicitly called out as improper GMing and we get the “why” of that too.

We’re now getting into overlap with the FKR thread:

Do agenda, principles, and best practices count as rules and/or do they actually inform play?

The answer to that (in my mind) is simple.

If the incentive structures align with promoting healthy, coherent, functional play…then how could they not?

This is when something like “promote fun” becomes controversial when put under the microscope. That is because “promote fun” is nearly the equivalent of “breathe oxygen” for games as the latter is for things that require respirating to “stay online.” Taxonomically, it’s shared with pretty much all other games and it’s in no way tethered to coherent and functional in playing this particular game in a way that is in the least bit informative (therefore what purchase can it have in promoting or binding behavior at the table?).

“Honey, when you’re walking to school today, make sure to continuously inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide!”

“…ok…thanks mom…”
 

I think the essence here is correct. The way I look at it, is that if the game truly reacts to the player characters' decisions, choices and actions then there can't be such a thing as a 'dead end'. If we follow them, and they keep moving, we have to end up somewhere.
And I think, for some people, this is a problem with the system. Dead ends are a staple of the mystery genre — it’s hard to find a movie where the protagonist always finds something worth pursuing in every scene. Dead ends are a natural downbeat, and without them a mystery doesn’t really feel like it’s a mystery.

Another issue with the lack of a simple failure is that it rewards ‘loud‘ players; a typical case would be where there are two approaches to an obstacle, and PtbA seems to reward the player who acts first — because their action will not lead to a dead end, the player with the other approach likely never gets a chance to do their thing. Because nothing truly fails, the spotlight goes to whoever acts first. Maybe it‘s a better plan to bribe the guards, but because Jo attempted to sneak past them, that scene generates a complication and the bribery will never be attempted.

A final issue I noted is that it can be tiring for the players never to have things finished. A few times in games I’ve seen players who just want their characters to check one minor thing out before heading to what they consider the main scene. They just wanted to see if there were footprints outside the window before heading to meet up with the rest of the team, and so a simple “you fail to find any useful info” is absolutely fine; a dead end is expected and much preferable to complicating the scene,

So, for me, the lack of dead ends is not a great selling point. It does guard against pointless searches and expenditure of game time, but honestly, if you have a GM happy to let you roll dice and spend 15 minutes doing something pointless, your issue is not with the system. Systems like GUMSHOE guarantee that you don’t waste time like this, but even in more traditional games, competent GMs make sure scenes that go nowhere finish fast.

Summary: Dead ends can be OK
 

pemerton

Legend
Dead ends are a staple of the mystery genre — it’s hard to find a movie where the protagonist always finds something worth pursuing in every scene.
As far as Apocalypse World is concerned, this is a non-sequitur.

To quote myself:
Consistently with those principles - and assuming now that there is not a custom move for searching the billiard room - the GM might even say that a search of the billiard room reveals nothing. But that wouldn't be all that the GM says, because that's not a move. So let's suppose that a player has their PC go off to search the billiard room. And (for whatever reason) it's not a charged situation, and there's no one there to interact with. So no player-side move has been triggered, and the GM just makes a move as normal. And that move could be your search of the billiard room reveals nothing; but when you come back home, you find that someone took advantage of your absence to really turn over your place! What do you think they might have found that you'd rather they didn't? (To some extent I'm taking my cue here from the Moves Snowball example of play, where Marie goes back home after Isle collapses.)

Whether what I've just described would be fair play, or crappy (even "gotcha") play, would depend on all the surrounding context. What I'm trying to say is that I don't think it's helpful to say that AW can or can't do fictional situation of such-and-such a sort. Putting to one side basic questions of genre (like maybe we should really be talking about car sheds rather than billiard rooms) I don't think AW puts any limits on the possible fiction.

The key question is always who is getting to establish it, when, in accordance with what rules and principles?
 

Dead ends are a staple of the mystery genre
As far as Apocalypse World is concerned, this is a non-sequitur.
Well, no. ”non-sequitur” means a statement that is unconnected to the previous argument. Since the previous statement was “AW doesn’t have dead ends” it directly is connected to that and it’s actually about as sequitur as you can get!

If what you mean to say is that it’s not applicable — that AW is inappropriate for mystery genres and that any discussion of the mystery genre and AW is silly, then, well — yes, that was my point, or at least a stronger statement of it.
 

pemerton

Legend
Well, no. ”non-sequitur” means a statement that is unconnected to the previous argument. Since the previous statement was “AW doesn’t have dead ends” it directly is connected to that and it’s actually about as sequitur as you can get!

If what you mean to say is that it’s not applicable — that AW is inappropriate for mystery genres and that any discussion of the mystery genre and AW is silly, then, well — yes, that was my point, or at least a stronger statement of it.
Here is what you posted that I quoted:
Dead ends are a staple of the mystery genre — it’s hard to find a movie where the protagonist always finds something worth pursuing in every scene.
And this is what I said is a non-sequitur. That is to say, the right-hand side of the dash has nothing to do with whether or not AW yields dead ends in play.

Once again, I will repost myself:
Consistently with those principles - and assuming now that there is not a custom move for searching the billiard room - the GM might even say that a search of the billiard room reveals nothing. But that wouldn't be all that the GM says, because that's not a move. So let's suppose that a player has their PC go off to search the billiard room. And (for whatever reason) it's not a charged situation, and there's no one there to interact with. So no player-side move has been triggered, and the GM just makes a move as normal. And that move could be your search of the billiard room reveals nothing; but when you come back home, you find that someone took advantage of your absence to really turn over your place! What do you think they might have found that you'd rather they didn't? (To some extent I'm taking my cue here from the Moves Snowball example of play, where Marie goes back home after Isle collapses.)

Whether what I've just described would be fair play, or crappy (even "gotcha") play, would depend on all the surrounding context. What I'm trying to say is that I don't think it's helpful to say that AW can or can't do fictional situation of such-and-such a sort. Putting to one side basic questions of genre (like maybe we should really be talking about car sheds rather than billiard rooms) I don't think AW puts any limits on the possible fiction.

The key question is always who is getting to establish it, when, in accordance with what rules and principles?
Nothing about Apocalypse World means that the protagonist always finds something worth pursuing in every scene. But there will never be dead ends in the play of the game, because nothing happens - what do you do? is not a GM move.

EDIT: Let me put it another way: it's not the case that the only way to avoid dead ends in play is to avoid dead ends in the investigation by having the protagonists find something worth pursuing in every scene.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
What I think @GrahamWills is saying (and I'm inclined to agree with him, so maybe it's easier for me to see it) is this:

There are TRPG scenarios in which a dead end (you don't see/hear/find/learn anything useful/interesting) is acceptable/expected.

Apocalypse World is designed not to generate dead ends.

Apocalypse World is incompatible with scenarios with dead ends.

If you're running Apocalypse World, don't run scenarios where you need/want dead ends; if you want to run scenarios with dead ends, don't run Apocalypse World.

@pemerton I don't think that's incompatible with what you're saying, but I don't always understand you as well as I would prefer.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
What I think @GrahamWills is saying (and I'm inclined to agree with him, so maybe it's easier for me to see it) is this:

There are TRPG scenarios in which a dead end (you don't see/hear/find/learn anything useful/interesting) is acceptable/expected.

Apocalypse World is designed not to generate dead ends.

Apocalypse World is incompatible with scenarios with dead ends.

If you're running Apocalypse World, don't run scenarios where you need/want dead ends; if you want to run scenarios with dead ends, don't run Apocalypse World.

@pemerton I don't think that's incompatible with what you're saying, but I don't always understand you as well as I would prefer.
There's a difference between a dead end in a mystery -- ie, finding out that the path you've been pursuing bears no fruit -- and a dead end in gameplay. AW doesn't do the latter. The former is up for grabs.

Games where the outcome of a check is "you don't find the important clue due to this failed roll" are presenting both -- a dead end in game play because play has stopped and you cannot progress the mystery. This is often addressed by things like the rule of three (there are three ways to get this important clue) but that's doesn't sidestep the fact that the game hit a dead end and requires that backtracking. AW never does this -- you might find out that what you thought was happening wasn't (mystery dead end) but play is moving forward from that point anyway -- no backtracking or restarting.

That's what I see as the point @pemerton is making.
 

And I think, for some people, this is a problem with the system. Dead ends are a staple of the mystery genre — it’s hard to find a movie where the protagonist always finds something worth pursuing in every scene. Dead ends are a natural downbeat, and without them a mystery doesn’t really feel like it’s a mystery.

Another issue with the lack of a simple failure is that it rewards ‘loud‘ players; a typical case would be where there are two approaches to an obstacle, and PtbA seems to reward the player who acts first — because their action will not lead to a dead end, the player with the other approach likely never gets a chance to do their thing. Because nothing truly fails, the spotlight goes to whoever acts first. Maybe it‘s a better plan to bribe the guards, but because Jo attempted to sneak past them, that scene generates a complication and the bribery will never be attempted.

A final issue I noted is that it can be tiring for the players never to have things finished. A few times in games I’ve seen players who just want their characters to check one minor thing out before heading to what they consider the main scene. They just wanted to see if there were footprints outside the window before heading to meet up with the rest of the team, and so a simple “you fail to find any useful info” is absolutely fine; a dead end is expected and much preferable to complicating the scene,

So, for me, the lack of dead ends is not a great selling point. It does guard against pointless searches and expenditure of game time, but honestly, if you have a GM happy to let you roll dice and spend 15 minutes doing something pointless, your issue is not with the system. Systems like GUMSHOE guarantee that you don’t waste time like this, but even in more traditional games, competent GMs make sure scenes that go nowhere finish fast.

Summary: Dead ends can be OK

There are two ways of looking at it, as I think @pemerton has pointed out. A dead end in the fictional investigation/mission/job that the PCs are engaged with, and a dead end in play. The former may happen, but the latter shouldn’t.

You mention dead ends as a staple of the mystery genre…but is that really true? Sure false leads and failures occur….but most scenes in fiction will serve some purpose, even if it is not directly connected to the investigation.

I’ve played and run scenes in D&D where the players were searching for information in the wrong location or using the wrong means or whatever. As I said in my last post, there’s no difference in success or failure in this situation. Nothing actually happens. That’s a dead end of play, as well as a dead end in the investigation.

So, when the PCs in a more Story Now game head to a location, the outcome of what will happen there is not predetermined. Maybe they will find something useful to their goals, maybe they’ll find nothing. Maybe they’ll find something but also suffer some setback or complication. Whatever the result, it will he based on the actions taken by the PCs, their intent, and the results of their rolls. The process of play will produce results of some sort.

I think this is a pretty key distinction.
 

Campbell

Legend
The loud players thing feels weird to me because it relies on all sorts of assumptions that are not true of Apocalypse World
  1. That player characters are part of a unified group or party
  2. That they declare actions to overcome obstacles or challenges as like the point of play
  3. That the GM is addressing the whole group instead of individual characters.
None of that is a feature of playing the game as the text instructs as to. That's smuggling in procedures from other games.

When running Apocalypse World the MC addresses individual players by their characters' names. It's Rurik, What do you do? and not amorphous group what do you do?

The spotlight gets shared because the MC spreads it around by asking different players what their character does.

In Apocalypse World it's your job to play your character with integrity, not to overcome some challenge or find out what the plot is. It's also not your job to have some group pow-wow. When it's your turn to speak you speak for your character.

Apocalypse World is a game about individual characters pursuing their individual goals. They often have to work together, but often also do not work in tandem. The fundamental long term tension in the game is about those relationships between player characters.

I know this probably is not encouraging to folks like @GrahamWills . It does not have to be. People should play Apocalypse World because it sounds cool and they want to play it. Monster of the Week might be a better fit for folks like him.
 
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pemerton

Legend
What I think @GrahamWills is saying (and I'm inclined to agree with him, so maybe it's easier for me to see it) is this:

There are TRPG scenarios in which a dead end (you don't see/hear/find/learn anything useful/interesting) is acceptable/expected.

Apocalypse World is designed not to generate dead ends.
@hawkeyefan and @Ovinomancer have said most of what there is to be said in reply to this.

When I watch a mystery film, and the detective reaches an investigative dead end, that doesn't meant that the film just stops, that frame stuck in the projector for the next half-hour. The story continues.

I have posted, now, three times an example of a completely feasible narration, in accordance with the rules and principles of Apocalypse World, of a PC investigator finding nothing in the billiard room. But I have also pointed out that that would not be the totality of the narration, because nothing happens . . . what do you do? is not a GM move in AW.

The example I gave was of the PC coming back home and finding that their room has been turned over. Now imagine one possible action declaration in response to that: the chopper rounds up their gang, everyone else hops into the driver's car, and the PCs move out! The GM can handle that - they just make a move, probably a soft move, like the rulebook tells them to. Maybe the mystery that prompted the investigation of the billiard room, and maybe the mystery of who turned over the PC's room, never get solved! That's OK. The game will just keep rolling.

This claim that AW can't do mysteries, or that AW can't do unsolved mysteries, or that the answer to mysteries in AW is that the players just stipulate the answers that their PCs discover, is nonsense. It has no foundation in the text - whether rules, principle, or examples. And I've posted, now four times, the imaginary example that illustrates this point.

AW puts no limits on possible topics of fiction. But it does put limits on who can say what when. And it doesn't allow the GM to simply say nothing happens . . . what do you do?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
There are two ways of looking at it, as I think @pemerton has pointed out. A dead end in the fictional investigation/mission/job that the PCs are engaged with, and a dead end in play. The former may happen, but the latter shouldn’t.

You mention dead ends as a staple of the mystery genre…but is that really true? Sure false leads and failures occur….but most scenes in fiction will serve some purpose, even if it is not directly connected to the investigation.

I’ve played and run scenes in D&D where the players were searching for information in the wrong location or using the wrong means or whatever. As I said in my last post, there’s no difference in success or failure in this situation. Nothing actually happens. That’s a dead end of play, as well as a dead end in the investigation.

So, when the PCs in a more Story Now game head to a location, the outcome of what will happen there is not predetermined. Maybe they will find something useful to their goals, maybe they’ll find nothing. Maybe they’ll find something but also suffer some setback or complication. Whatever the result, it will he based on the actions taken by the PCs, their intent, and the results of their rolls. The process of play will produce results of some sort.

I think this is a pretty key distinction.
I beat you by 2 whole minutes!
 


Aldarc

Legend
Curse my fat thumbs!!!
Driving Italian GIF by The Animal Crackers Movie
 

I don't get Dungeon World's presentation of limited race choices for certain classes either, but, it's good to keep in mind that in all PbtA games (that I've seen), playbooks are starting points, not full & restrictive definitions. So the authors say only humans get to be paladins, or only human and elf rangers get special moves. Chuck it! Be a dwarf paladin, make up a special move dwarf paladins get. I think they could have been much clearer about that, but it's just something in the air if you plug in to the community.
Those choices are emulations of AD&D.
D&D 3.x removed a lot of limitations in the core, and told GM's they could impose restrictions if they wanted for their worlds, but the rulebooks no longer would.
From discussions seen when it was being developed, it was OSR fans doing the adaptation.
 

PbTA games really need to be played in order to understand them. I know I was surprised how immersive my first experiences were and how deep the world felt, although very little prep was done by the GM.

The games feel like they'd be awkward and artificial until you play. Players and the GM need to fully engage, however. Nobody at the table can be there just to roll dice and eat Doritos. 😁I hope you'll give it a chance.
The same is true for Sentinel Comics - it's also move driven - but it's also a bit more trad than most of the AWE/PBTA derived families.
THe GM has regular turns for his NPCs, and there is a GM plotline, but in-scene it's move based, and doesn't even have a normal risk of failure.
It has the narrate it to have your character do it, it's move based, and it has 5 basic and 2 special moves; all the various special abilities are combinations of one of those 8 moves. (Special moves require an enabling special ability.)
The SC moves being Attack, Defend, Boost, Hinder, Overcome; the special moves are Heal, and build/summon. Unlike AWE, failure isn't a possibility most of the time; Overcomes can fail, all others simply have quality of success A & D from 0 to 16, B & H having a range from 0 to 4, and overcome has 5 levels that aren't numeric... Fail+Complication (roll<=0), player choice simple fail or success+major complication (Roll 1-3), Success+Minor Complication (roll 4-7), simple success (roll 8-11), Success plus bonus (roll >=12). Not that the ranges on Boost or hinder map to the same ranges.

I found the AWE/PBTA mechanics much more comprehensible after running SCRPG... and there's a reason: SC is strongly influenced by both AW and Cortex Plus. (It's mentioned in the starter kit credits.)
If one needs a way to ease into AWE styles of play, SC can be that first stepping stone... it still has a GM and the GM frames the scene, and it has a victory condition for every scene, and is mission based. But in scene, players narrate until they hit one of the moves, or trigger a special ability they have; if they get to the ability, they can stop narrating and roll the dice; if instead they describe a move but don't see it, the GM can interrupt to have them resolve it.

It's not in the same space as any of the AWE/PBTA games, but it's a big step in the direction, but also only one of several such steps distance.
 

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