Friday, April 26, 2013

Writing Playbooks

I've written a few playbooks now, and I've looked through a lot of really promising builds for playbooks and some that are just atrocious. Having scoured the Barf Forth Apocalyptica forums and committed to memory many of the random details from Vincent about how he wrote the original 11 playbooks, I feel pretty confident in writing this step by step process for writing a playbook.

Step 1: Have an open-ended concept
This is key. Your concept is everything, it helps define what you're going to write about the playbook. But you can't cling to it like a bible. Your vision of the archetype can't be constrained and must be open to interpretation. The best playbooks have a concept which is clearly understood and open to enough interpretation that it doesn't force the character to behave a certain way. The archetype molds to the character, not the other way around.
Look at the core playbooks and you can see the archetypes clearly: the Brainer is a weird psychic, the Angel is a competent medic, the Driver is a car obsessive, etc.

Step 2: Balance isn't everything
Every playbook has a stat block that usually includes a "best" stat. In almost every instance, the stat blocks add up to a total of +3 (+2 +1 -1 +1 +0 = +3). In some instances a character starts with two stats at +2 and those break the mold, but those stat lines also have a consistent math of adding up to +2 (+2 +2 +0 -1 -1 = +2), the price you pay for starting with two +2s is one less beneficial point.
Also, every playbook should start with three moves, or things, that make it distinct. These don't need to be balanced in power with other playbooks, as long as the character simply has 3 things. Look at the core playbooks and they all have three things to start: the Gunlugger starts with a choice of 3 moves, the Driver has their car (1) the no shit driver move (2) and then a choice of a second move (3), and the Savvyhead has their workspace (1) and a choice of 2 more moves (2 and 3).
Again, there are some playbooks that break the mold, but these tend to be balanced within themselves:
the Battlebabe only chooses 2 moves to start, but they have a Cool +3 and that's their third thing
the Hardholder only has their hold and a gang, with moves that accompany each, however these are bigger than the holds and gangs other playbooks can get as improvements, plus the Hardholder explicitly never needs to spend money for food and lodging
the Operator gets gigs and moonlighting, plus one more move, but the Operator's gigs outnumber what other characters can get as improvements

Step 3: Scarcity is the name of the game
One of the key things when writing moves and improvements for your playbook is to remember the theme of scarcity. In other words, you can't get all of the options! Nothing is perfect in Apocalypse World and you're always left wanting a little more, this should apply to character improvement as well. If your playbook has 5 moves to choose from and you can choose 3 during character creation, then you should think about adding a 6th move, maybe even a 7th move, or limiting the "get a new playbook move" improvement so that there's one move you can't get.
Again, look at the examples with the core game:
the Skinner starts with 2 moves and can get 2 more through improvements, but there are 5 Skinner moves total
the Gunlugger starts with 3 moves and can get 2 more through improvements, but there are 7 Gunlugger moves total

Step 4: Peer review
Share your ideas with your gaming friends and ask them for criticism. Share your ideas in the forums and ask for criticism. There is no better resource for criticism than a gaming community, just remember to not let all criticism affect your work. When I first shared the Wolf some people noted the villainous nature of the archetype and said they didn't think it fit with the game, I ignored that criticism because FUCK YOU! Don't tell me how to play the game! Just because it wouldn't be fun for you or your group doesn't mean it won't be fun for me and mine. Those kinds of criticisms about the theme and tone of your work are useless. In a way, they are just an outsider reaction similar to that lack of trust one displays at the gaming table when somebody else is narrating the action.
But when somebody says "Hey, it looks like your math is wrong." or "Isn't this move just a weaker version of going aggro?" Those are valid. Listen to them.
Scratch that! Listen to everybody. Just keep your bullshit detector on a high frequency.
And don't wait until your playbook is finished to share it either. As soon as you have something to work with you should be talking about it and sharing it to see where the cracks are. Poke and prod at your work until you think it's solid.

Step 5: Play it!
Once you think your work is solid, you have got to play it. Get other people to play it if you can. Play it, play it, and play it some more. Because you will never have played it enough and somebody might still find something wrong with it.

That's all I've got. Good luck!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Introducing THE DOG

Everybody's got to eat, and humans have most of the food. It's win-win as far as you're concerned because most people seem to like you just because of what you are, without even being able to get to know you. If foraging and stealing isn't working for you, you do have other abilities you can rely upon.
Man's best friend. If they only knew.

When I was talking with Willow Palecek about fleshing out the missing spots of her The Boy & His Dog playbook, I spent some time re-reading the novella by Harlan Ellison titled "A Boy and His Dog" and I woke up the next day from a dream where I was a dog like Blood, telepathic and in the wasteland, and I mentioned the dream to Willow saying it would be an unusual spin if the playbook were for the dog and the human companion was the NPC that you could control and guide. Her response was "You should write it!" So I did.

1) The playbook is a little bit derivative, but my original write-up for the "psychic dog" archetype was incredibly complex and by trying to simplify it I realized that some of the things I had written were simply unnecessary.

2) Ears up, nose down is my rewrite of Willow's Somewhere over the wasteland move, which I felt the original was too harsh on the player, and Third nostril is just the Angel's Sixth sense. Once I had given the Dog a +3 in Sharp as one of it's main "things" I felt the move was perfect and didn't want to rewrite something new and convoluted to do a similar thing. Besides, the Angel's Sixth sense is identical to the Driver's Weather eye so I also didn't feel I was breaking a rule of playbook creation by having an identical move with a different name. Then Lassie come home is not identical to Bonefeel but I used Bonefeel as the starting point. The hold from Lassie come home is triggered by wanting to help or interfere with another PC, so it's meant to act as a "that dog that's been following you was just waiting for you behind the door" or "that dog that's been following you leaps in through the window, attacking that guy" sort of move.

3) The human companion is a unique feature of the playbook, separate from the A Friend in the Wasteland starting move. They always have +tele-radar so the dog will always have at least one person they can consistently communicate with. The A Friend in the Wasteland move doesn't give +tele-radar because another character might conceivably take that move. Think of A Friend in the Wasteland as the "I'm getting a loyal follower" move. It's written in such a way that the character could be a confidant or ally, like Batman's butler Alfred or Batman's sidekick Robin, but when The Dog has a follower they get +tele-radar.

4) You're a psychic dog! is not a move. That's why it's on the back of the playbook and it's not listed as a starting move. It's a feature of the playbook, and other characters should not be able to get it, unless your MC is running a very weird game.

link = the Dog playbook
if you use this in your group, I would love to hear about how it played, please e-mail me with your stories:
nerdwerds AT gmail

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dear HBO

Hi, I love you HBO.
I just wanted to get that out there, because you were a part of my life when I was growing up and though I haven't seen you in years, I have seen a lot of the things you've made. I saw so many movies when I was growing up thanks to you. Movies that helped define my tastes and my interests. I remember when we got our first HBO viewing guide in the mail, and I remember my family preparing to see the new premiere movie every week. Even if we had seen them in the theatre months earlier, knowing they were coming to our TV screen thanks to you was exciting. Chariots of Fire. Terms of Endearment. Platoon. Star Wars. Quest for Fire. Never Say Never Again. The Road Warrior. Splash. Beverly Hills Cop. Predator. I remember watching them for the first time or revisiting an enjoyable film again all thanks to you. That intro where the HBO logo appears and the viewer is sucked into the side of the O and then the inside of the O becomes the screen where the movie is about to play, I remember seeing that for the first time and getting as excited to watch a film as I might sitting the front row of a theatre and dabbing popcorn into my mouth.

And because of you I saw a lot of weird indie films, TV series, and original programs that weren't available on regular broadcast television. The Hitchhiker. Encyclopedia Brown. Not Necessarily the News. Dream On. Fraggle Rock. Kids in the Hall. Tales from the Crypt. Braingames! Oh man, I miss Braingames! Those shows were all awesome!

Now, you might notice all of my cherished films and shows all come from a certain era: the 80s. That's because in the 90s we had to drop HBO from our cable plan. In fact, things were so tough that we didn't even have cable at all for a few years, but when we got it again HBO wasn't an option because it was just too expensive. And hey, I was a kid and my main job was attending school, so any vote I had was null and void anyway. But now I'm an adult. I pay my own bills and I could get HBO too. Except, it's too expensive.

See, it's only expensive because I have to go through the cable company, and they'd rather sell me 300 channels I don't want for quadruple the cost of your channel before I can even get the option of spending some more money to get access to your programming. But the difference between those 300 channels and you is only twenty measly dollars. Now I spend about $15 every month to watch movies from Netflix, and they have a huge selection. In fact, they have a lot of your shows on DVD so that's probably the main reason I'm subscribed with them. I'm looking at your current programming line-up and you have about 17 shows that are under your production and I have to think, if you made your programs available online as a subscription service like Netflix you could cut out the cable company as a middleman and sell your shows directly to people like me. I would gladly pay $15 a month just to watch those 17 HBO programs, and what's really funny about that is that I probably wouldn't even watch all of them. But I would still gladly pay!

The rules for broadcasting have changed. Pirating shows is rampant as old companies refuse to adapt to the new technology and try to lock down their services, usually only to the consternation of those who want to watch and always to no avail. Once it exists, it's out there. Once you've broadcast it, it can be recorded, uploaded, downloaded, and there's nothing you can do to stop it. The guys who are going to come out on top are those who look ahead and innovate and embrace this format that future customers have already embraced and know inside and out. In fact, I can watch any of your currently broadcast shows whenever I want for free.

And yet, I am still willing to pay you $15 a month to watch your shows! Because I want you to succeed, and I want you to keep making shows that are awesome. I'm just not willing to pay my cable company the $60 a month admission for the privilege of paying you $15 a month to watch those shows on a timetable.

Now, maybe you have some deal with the cable companies that's more lucrative for you to stay where you are, and that's cool. Business is business, right? But, as long as you're locked into a relationship with some big jerk who keeps trying to dig deeper into the rest of our wallets, I and a lot of other people have $15 set aside just for you every month that you're not getting.

At some point you have to start wondering between the options of using a middleman or reaching your customers directly: which business is more lucrative?

Monday, April 15, 2013

What is Apocalypse World?

For distribution at conventions and introducing to new players, I created this informative brochure about Apocalypse World in the style of a character playbook from Apocalypse World.

link = What is Apocalypse World?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Introducing THE WOLF

The world is a dangerous place filled with smoke and mirrors, it’s a steaming pile of crap where others bicker and fight over meaningless twaddle. They circle each other like dogs, waiting to bite the closest friend with a leg up. You’re in this world too, but you see through the smoke, you’re above the crap, and you have the leash. You just have to teach them all who’s really in charge.

Originally written in a flurry of activity as a response to the Solace. I was never entirely happy with some of the moves I had written and one move in particular was rewritten five times before I eventually just abandoned it and wrote something new to replace it. This is probably the third version of the playbook, but maybe not the final version since I still need to playtest it.

1) The Wolf is a villain. It gives a player the opportunity to be an additional threat impulse, but they will have to contend with NPC threats just like the other players. I initially planned on calling the playbook The Instigator and He's got a gun! was the first move I wrote. This quickly changed when I embraced the concept that a player might want to actively be a wolf of the maelstrom (as described in the Solace playbook).

2) Many of the moves are literal reverses of the Solace's moves. He's got a gun! is the opposite of Disarming presence, Taking care of business is the opposite of An understanding, and Howling into the wind is the opposite of A higher standard. The Wolf is not just a predatory character, but I envisioned it being the antithesis of the Solace.

3) The suitcase of secrets was my take on the opposition of the Solace's threshold. I don't expect NPC wolves would all have suitcases, but this Wolf does because it is THE Wolf. I envision the suitcase as being a direct conduit to whatever sentient force might exist within or as a part of the world's psychic maelstrom. The suitcase is not just a tool for the Wolf, but it's an object that allows the MC to barf forth apocalyptica every time it's used, carried, or looked at.

4) Finally, keen eyes might notice that when you retire your character you can do so "as a threat" and this is exactly what it means. You give the character to the MC and they can keep using it as a threat impulse within the game. In general, I think retiring your character should give the player a bit of dictatorial control as to what happens to that character, and being able to say that your old Wolf is still out there fucking with people is just too cool to pass up!

link = the Wolf playbook
if you use this in your group, I would love to hear about how it played, please e-mail me with your stories:
nerdwerds AT gmail

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Dungeon World Resources

Dungeon World Content Mega-Post - Updated 4/3

I update this post regularly. If you would like anything you've made to be added to this post, email either jeikobu73 AT yahoo (he's the primary maintainer) or nerdwerds AT gmail (this is my blog). As this post ages, some of this content might disappear. If you find any of the links below are dead or wonky, please let me know.

Link to the original post on Something Awful

:siren: Scrape and Evil Mastermind's Dungeon World GM's Guide :siren:

Are you just too confused about everything Dungeon World has to offer? Fret not, for you have a handy guide! SA's own Scrape and Evil Mastermind have come together in a collaboration to create a veritable compendium of clarifications, examples, and insights on building worlds that players can enjoy. For all peoples who are interested in Dungeon World! Also includes additional classes and races brought about by Emong and his wonderful contributions.

Other DM Aids:
aldantefax's Career Move ideas
CADPAT's C'thulhu-style front and custom "sanity" move
CADPATs Deck of Many Things
Evil Mastermind's Madness Mechanics
Evil Mastermind's Quicksteel items
Fenarisk's Homestead playbook
Glazius' Gnomes
gnome7's Basic Rules cheat sheet
ImpactVector's Campaign and Adventure Fronts
LemonCurdistan's Base Class Alignment Moves list
LemonCurdistan's Base Class Racial Moves list
madadric's tribute to Michael Jackson
madadric's Heartseeker Talisman item and Rope Bridge custom move
MadRhetoric's Paladins of unusual races
Mattie's Character Sheet Spreadsheets (Ich's additional spreadsheets, in the same format)
Neceros' character sheet with auto calculator and form fillable boxes

:siren: Captain Indigo's Monster Creation tips
dwarf74's Basic D&D monsters
Evil Mastermind's Elemental liches, in progress, includes Elemental champion compendium classes
Evil Mastermind's Mind Flayer
jonthegm's Wight
LemonCurdistan's Draigs and Spiderhorse
Mikan's Last Stand Monsters (DTRPG link)
PublicOpinion's Ecology of the Void
PublicOpinion's Handmaidens of the Spider Queen
PublicOpinion's Hollow Man
PublicOpinion's Liar
PublicOpinion's Morddreggoste

New Classes:
  • alternate Thief Character classes, by Justin Schmid
  • Compendium Classes, by Tim Franzke
    Androc's Arcane Duelist
    Arrrthritis' Beastmaster, in progress
    Asininecurist and gnome7's Noble
    berenzen's Elemental Knight, in progress
    Desty's Merchant Prince
    devilmaydry's Conflux, in progress
    ElegantFugue's Marksman
    :siren: Elmo Oxygen's Medic
    Ergonomix's Mastermind
    EscortMission's Beguiler, in progress
    Fenarisk's Assassin
    Fenarisk's Leader
    Flavirus and Okasvi's Augur
    Flavivirus' update to Sage LaTorra's Battlemind
    :siren: GimpInBlack's Gladiator
    Glazius' Giant weaponry
    gnome7's Alternate Playbooks Packet (Artificer, Mage, Priest, Templar)
    gnome7's Cultist
    :siren: gnome7's Dashing Hero
    gnome7's Drider
    gnome7's Improved Fighter
    gnome7's Improved Wizard
    gnome7's True Friend
    Evil Mastermind's Warlord, in progress
    Kai Tave's Warlord
    Kaja Rainbow's Imposter
    KillerQueen's Diabolist, in progress
    Lemon Curdistan's Shaman
    :siren: madadric's Spellslinger (DTRPG link)
    MadRhetoric's Oracle, level 1-5 teaser version
    MadRhetoric's Sharpshooter, level 1-5 teaser version
    MadRhetoric's Swashbuckler, level 1-5 teaser version
    megane's alternate Wizard moves
    :siren: megane and gnome7's Mage
    :siren: Mikan's Warlock
    :siren: Mors Rattus' Initiate
    Nemesis of Mole's Automaton Bard and Storm Wizard
    Nemesis of Mole's Vampire Killer
    NinjaDebugger's Ninja, in progress
    Okasvi's Elf
    Okasvi's Scholar, in progress
    :siren: Rulebook Heavily's Namer
    Sears Poncho's Charlatan
    Shamblercow's Hardened Convict
    Shamblercow's Necromancer, in progress
    :siren: TheLoneAmigo and gnome7's Artificer
    The Supreme Court's Necromancer
    :siren: TombsGrave's Psion
    wrl's Knight, in progress
    wrl's Hot Shot, in progress

    Compendium Classes:
    Androc and gnome7's Compendium Class Pack, which includes the Assassin, the Cursed Knight, the Demiurge, the Firebrand, the Juggernaut, and the Swashbuckler
    Androc's Ascendant
    Benly's ...Harbinger?
    bugcatcher's Monster Tamer, in progress
    Desty's Zombie
    Emong's Compendium Classes.txt ZIP file
    Emong's Doppelganger
    FrozenGoldfishGod's The Chosen
    gnome7's Marked Ninja
    Hugoon Chavez's Dragon Marks
    KillerQueen's Jojo's Bizarre Adventure compendium classes
    Lemon Curdistan's Avowed
    MadRhetoric's Wishbearer and Eternal Protector
    Mikan's ...Broken Spirit?
    Mikan's Monster Hunter
    Mors Rattus' Ronin and Blindfighter, don't know how long they'll stay up
    Okasvi's Miscellanious Compendium Classes
    Okasvi's Immortal
    Okasvi's Vampire
    PublicOpinion's Hat Master
    PublicOpinion's Honorary Librarian (includes extra race options)
    Tollymain's Leviathan Master
    Tollymain's The Aware

    Settings and Adventures:
    aldante_fax's Infinite Dungeon
    Danoss' Living Dungeon World
    FIGHTING-MAN's Streets of Marienburg, a Warhammer Fantasy playset of World of Dungeons.
    GimpInBlack's Dark Sun World
    InfiniteJester's Mutant World. a Gamma World hack
    madadric's Land of the Dead
    Mikan's Twin Spirit Isle
    Mors Rattus' Seventh World, a Seven Seas hack
    PublicOpinion's Agram's Temple

    Published Books:
    Dungeon Planet

    If you'd like to support the various goons who make these wonderful things, you can throw money at the following places:

    Mikan's Fünhaver Industries
    Gnome7's DTRPG publisher account
    madadric's DTRPG publisher account