Vincent Baker on mechanics, system and fiction in RPGs

Which is fine. Its seemed for a while now that any time we get close to you having a reason to finally agree on something you find a way to ensure we don't establish any mutual understanding.

Which reminds me, good reason to make use of my recent learning that I can in fact block people outright and not have to deal with the Ignore messages.

So I'll bow out.

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Thats like saying AW doesn't have Moves. They are literally all Yes, And mechanics.
No they're not! If the roll is 6-, the GM is entitled to make as hard and direct a move as they like.

Here's an example, from the AW rulebook (pp 155-56):

“So, Marie: at home, pacing, armed, locked in, yeah? They arrive suddenly at your door with a solid kick, your whole door rattles.
You hear Whackoff’s voice: ‘she’s expecting us I guess.’” I’m announcing future badness.

“I go to the peep hole,” she says. “There are three of them?”

“Yep,” I say. “Whackoff on your left, Plover and Church Head are doing something on your right, Plover’s back’s to you — and you
hear a cough-cough-rrrrar sound and Plover’s at the door with a chainsaw. What do you do?” I’m putting her in a spot.

“I read the situation. What’s my best escape route?” She rolls+sharp and — <oops> — misses. “Oh no,” she says.

I can make as hard and direct a move as I like. The brutes’ threat move I like for this is make a coordinated attack with a coherent
, so here it comes.

“You’re looking out your (barred, 4th-story) window as though it were an escape route,” I say, “and they don’t chop your door all
the way down, just through the top hinge, and then they lean on it to make a 6-inch space. The door’s creaking and snapping at
the bottom hinge. And they put a grenade through like this—” I hold up my fist for the grenade and slap it with my other hand,
like whacking a croquet ball.

“I dive for—”

Sorry, I’m still making my hard move. This is all misdirection.

“Nope. They cooked it off and it goes off practically at your feet. Let’s see … 4-harm area messy, a grenade. You have armor?”


“Oh yes, your armored corset. Good! You take 3-harm.” She marks it on her character sheet. “Make the harm move. Roll+3.”

She hits the roll with a 9. I get to choose from the move’s 7–9 list, and I decide that she loses her footing.

“For a minute you can’t tell what’s wrong, and you have this sensation, it seems absurd now but I guess it makes sense, that you hit the ceiling. Maybe you tripped on something and fell, and hit it that way? Then gradually you get your senses back, and that noise you thought was your skull cracking is actually your door splitting and splintering down, and that noise you thought was your blood is their chainsaw. What do you do?”​

The GM does not say "yes" to Marie's player's declaration about looking for a way out.

pemerton said:
by saying what one's PC does in the fiction; and by establishing goals, wants, hates, hopes, etc for one's PC, such that the MC can announce badness, put you in a spot, offer opportunities and the like.
You can describe any RPG with this.
No you can't!

The idea of announcing future badness is not part of (for instance) Moldvay Basic. The ideal for the referee in classic D&D is neutrality: to present the situation extrapolated from the dungeon key as fairly as possible. This is nothing like the approach of the AW MC (beyond the fact that they are both ways of adjudicating a RPG).

It is when you as proxy for the designer have spent 24 pages trying to assert how much better AW is than whatever else.
I've made no such assertion. I have asserted that Vincent Baker has a lot of intelligent stuff to say about RPG design. The game I have praised the highest in this thread is Burning Wheel.

You seem to mistake admiration for Baker as a designer and an analyst/critic, and the rebuttal of mistaken claims about AW coming from you and others, as assertions that AW is better than anything else. To me, that seems like some sort of projection.

We remember the stories of the Miracle On Ice and the Red Sox breaking the Curse of the Bambino. We remember Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura doing the Bongcloud opening against each other. We remember zzirgrizz introducing a bunch of millenials to the idea of using a .50 cal Sniper Rifle as a shotgun. We remember getting a nat20 on the bbeg, or getting at Nat 1 at the impossibly worst time.

All of these stories are valid and compelling. The value judgements you're making that these aren't dramatic or compelling is unwarranted.
I'm sure someone, somewhere, thinks there is no difference to be drawn - in terms of storytelling, drama, etc - between the time they leaped up in excitement, having finally solved the last clue on the crossword they were solving, and (say) Casablanca, or Nine Days, or a novel like The Quiet American.

I am not that person. I don't play RPGs so that I can have fond memories of lucky dice rolls. I am looking for something different, and more immediately dramatic and compelling, when I play a RPG.

But that isn't what everyone wants. Some of us would rather play games that speak to their own genres
Knock yourselves out!

That just because you say you have related experience to given subject doesn't actually make you an expert in it.
The reason I'm an expert in the fields in which I am expert in because of my years of work in them, my engagement with my peers (and my superiors), my work in relation to teaching, etc. It is attested by my qualifications, my publications, my prizes and my students.

Thread has appeared to be careening toward a cliff (or is long over it and doesn’t know it’s about to be dashed on the rocks below).

Awoken from sleep contribution:

AW moves are a synthesis of player say, system say, and GM say. And each of those components of say are multivariate and interdependent.

Moves don’t take away agency. They structure agency and work to generate a failsafe environment so that each “say” consistently remains intact. Contrast with an alternative design that doesn’t have deliberate structure and “say apportionment” which serves such an end of curtailing and preventing action-negation.

They do other things as well, but when it comes to the contribution of each of player, system, and GM, that is what they do. And, like every component part or layer of AW, you can’t examine them as discrete pieces of system. They should only be considered (when analyzing from afar) and applied (when playing) within the confines of full textual integration. Put another way, no application of a move gets to discretionally suspend “to do it, you do it” or “play to find out” or “be fan of the characters” or the prior fiction (which is a lynchpin for “follow through”) or the implications of gear/harm (etc).


Thread has appeared to be careening toward a cliff (or is long over it and doesn’t know it’s about to be dashed on the rocks below).
Well maybe not quite.

From the OP, quoting Vincent Baker:
In play . . . your rules impose a structured causality upon your game's fiction. If they were a good match in design, then in play the game works the way you meant it to. If they were a bad match in design, then in play the game doesn't work how you intended. Bold barbarian warriors maximize their armor and when they go into battle it's a matter of grinding ablation, not decisive action; your grim & gritty noir detective has to carry an assault rifle because a .38 won't kill a dude; the team of morning-cartoon superheroes bicker, bean-count their resources, and wind up working for the highest bidder.[/indent]
What we see over the last several pages is a series of complaints that Go Aggro, in AW, creates a game in which violent threats can trigger violent consequences, even if the players don't really want them to.

That sure makes it seem to me as if Vincent succeeded in his design ambitions!


Prophet of the profane (She/Her)
Whether it is a dilemma, obviously depends on one's preferences. But what I want is the moment the character has to decide the thing and when the player has to decide the thing to be in sync, and I want to avoid having meta discussions about it.
I find the notion that the character doesn't know whether they are willing to follow up on their threat before said threat is made pretty silly.


Prophet of the profane (She/Her)
I apologize for not reading ten-odd pages of discussion, but anyway.

re: Writer's room
As much as I like writer's room, the main reason I love PbtA in general and Apocalypse World specifically as much as I do is because you don't need writer's room there. You can and should think like the character! (and the main reason I don't like midschool games is because the only way to have a story that is even remotely satisfying to me there is to assume director stance and never leave it)

When I play AW I can just, like, play the goddamn game. Say what my character is gonna say. Do what my character is gonna do. And rules being based on what's the intent is instead of what's the character actually doing is a major part in that, because the character knows why they do stuff! They don't point a gun at someone just for giggles, they do it with intent. Intent to shoot the bastard dead, intent to scare the bastard away, intent to show someone else that they aren't afraid to spill some blood, whatever.


I've personally been in a much higher frequency of "writer's room" situations when playing D&D than I ever had with the roleplaying games that detractors told me should be breaking my in-character immersion or roleplaying.
I'm not 100% sure what is meant to constitute "writers' room", but D&D party play certainly encourages a lot of collaboration among players.


(He, Him)
I find the notion that the character doesn't know whether they are willing to follow up on their threat before said threat is made pretty silly.
It doesn't seem silly to me because I experience that sometimes I start to do X and in a split-second have a change of heart. Picture a person holding someone against the wall, raising their fist, shouting - "Tell me where you were last night!?", and when that person spits back "Get f***ed!!" - then at the very last second punches that raised fist hard into the wall... right by their head. Did the aggressor know when they raised their fist that they were going to punch face or wall? It's plausible to me that they did not.

But this isn't a question about when a character realistically knows what, solely: it's a question about what mechanic best yields the distinct play. In the world of the Apocalypse, emotional violence is wedded to physical violence. It's so obvious that it sometimes gets overlooked, but games are symbolic. In my example, no one was really shouted at, nor will they (or any wall) be punched. What is represented, symbolically, by Go Aggro? In that respect I found @Emberashh's assessment of PbtA as genre emulation to offer a useful lense.

Meta in this sense refers to speaking about a game concern outside of the reality of the gameworld. Clarifying player intent is a meta concern, and one Id prefer if the game didn't produce an excessive amount of.

Meta in this sense does not, nor have to, refer to meta as in the derogatory "metagaming", where out of game knowledge is leveraged for an unfair advantage within the in-game.

Ie, you introduce your Player knowledge that Trolls are weak to fire to win a battle, despite your character Frildo never having left the Bubblegum Forest until a week ago and never seeing a troll before until this moment.

In the specific example of clarifying player intent, this isn't the same thing as metagaming as its within the bounds of fairness in the game, but both are still meta in the sense that they're rooted outside the gameworld itself.
I feel what is lacking from this concept of "meta" is that the word is most useful (in my view) when it is thought of as "across games". So that it is metagaming to bring knowledge from one game into another (per your Frildo example), but it is not metagaming to think about how your character in the current game ought to act. Were the latter metagaming, then every character act would count as metagaming because in a TTRPG characters never act of their own volition. A player always must contemplate and voice actions, and in doing so all sorts of cases that I feel sure few would describe as metagaming may arise in which they must clarify intent. I mention this because I think to accurately make use of the genre emulation assessment above, it's important to be clear about what is included in play of the current game, and what is beyond that.

Also overlooked, possibly, is that PbtA does not assume that moves are only used by player characters on non-player characters.

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