Thursday, October 30, 2014

the unofficial playbook moves

I've been working on a project that is consuming more time than I thought it would, creating an index of all of the moves from the "unofficial" player-written playbooks of Apocalypse World. I wanted it to look and feel just like the index of moves from the official refbook pdf, however I've been using scribus to create my pdfs and I have not found a way to embed text within a pdf so that it may be copy+pasted. I stayed in wordpad for the index, and many pdfs had formatting issues so I had to fix typos and in some cases rearrange sentences or just retype them, then I alphabetized all of the moves. While doing all of this I got to really analyze every playbook. Many of these playbooks focus on relationships with NPCs and quantify them similar to gear or as part of moves. There are lots of unique mechanics like Sentience for the Synthetic or Rage for the Behemoth, etc. I decided to include brief summaries of what these things are and included them at the end of the document.

A link to the "unofficial" moves document = https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9cu0IVYfHtiX2ZzbHU0bzNIWEU/view

This project started initially because I wanted to create an index of ALL of the moves that I would be able to give to my players and say "here's the moves list" but I've ended the project with a completely different perspective. I think each of the really unique playbooks are internally consistent, but picking up a move from another playbook is not always relative to the character you are playing. Thus, I think when a player chooses to get a move from another playbook the new move should perhaps be rewritten slightly to address the theme of the core playbook and overall tone of the character being played. I'm also regarding stat substitution moves as generally boring now, but that's a subject for another day. Rewriting the moves on the fly is just an idea, but one I'm going to experiment with a little. For now I have made sure that my document linked above is universal for anybody downloading it. The suggestions and descriptions are written generically, and directed toward the players rather than the MC.

I hope you find it useful!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

the Crown of the world

There is a mountain range along the northern edge of the world that no one in living memory has crossed. The Crown blots out the sky to the north, and few have climbed through it's peaks to return and spin tales of what lies beyond. The Crown can be seen along the northern horizon like a tear across the land separating it from the sky. The only evidence that the living once crossed the Crown are the dams and aqueducts that still supply fresh water to thriving populations south of the mountains, marvelous and magical technology which no sage or scholar is able to explain. Each was designed, perhaps, by the same people. These people were short folk, though the Dwarves nor the Masadhi or even the Oukek have any stories to tell of their ancestors' toils to the north.

The memories of what lies beyond the Crown are all faded and gone, but the rumors and stories persist. A mountain made of gold, a cursed place where none may take from and return home alive. A crystal peak that glimmers in starlight and makes men weep though they know not why. Three-armed giants with obsidian skin, ripping apart any plants or animals they cross paths with. A four-eyed hellhound that breathes blue flame and hunts those who dare not pray to the dead gods that birthed it.

A few brave sailors have tried to circumnavigate the continent to find what lies to the north of the Crown, but they return exhausted with tales of treacherous waters inhabited by hostile marine life and harried by cruel mermen. Or they don't return at all. No ship has navigated the northern seas successfully, and even the Chiryo avoid the icy waters when they cross the ocean to trade with Bellhaven.

They say that even the wind hates the living north of the Crown.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Apocalypse World: enter Syn

A new playbook was added to our group, the Behemoth, and with it a new character, Syn.

Syn is a giant, winged lizard who can sense, and will devour, sinners. It is followed by three sombrero-wearing men who are known as Uno, Dos, and Tres; but also as the Three Maldicion.

When Syn arrives in Jericho it has lost the scent of some sinner it was following and decides to draw them out by encircling and then swooping down into the middle of town, to which most of the people in Jericho panic. Several of the Nuns wanted to attack it, and the governor of Jericho even coordinated some of her men to be in a position to attack it. Several of Governor Isle's men opened fire on the creature, but it did not attack back, instead it seemed to be trying to communicate and cooler heads prevailed in defusing the situation.

Mercy arrived back in town at the same time Sister Alleluia was fighting giant spider-snakes with Cletus. The spider-snake creatures gave Alleluia and Cletus a lot of trouble, knocking them to the ground and trying to constrict their bodies, but in the end Alleluia prevailed and killed all three of them while Cletus succumbed to some of their poison. She took Cletus back to his infirmary, where his injured assistant Henry did what he could for him

Mercy had been taming the already docile Syn and wrapped a great chain around Syn's neck, then convinced the giant lizard to fly above the clouds. For Mercy it was a spiritual experience.

Then Governor Isle confronted Big Momma Superior about how her gang thinks they run Jericho. In asserting her authority over Big Momma, Isle declared that the doors to town be reopened and the Frogs be shot on sight by any guards who saw them. A traveling caravan of gypsies entered Jericho and Syn dug a tunnel next to the town square for it to nest in. Underneath the tunnel was a mine, it appeared that Big Boss had sealed it shut when Big Momma Superior first attacked and now there were several dozen dead bodies underneath Jericho. Mercy set out to exhume the bodies and burn them in a funeral pyre, to which Big Momma objected but Mercy insisted that burning the bodies was the only way their souls would go to Heaven for she "had seen the light above the clouds!" and then Mercy revoked her membership in the Nuns.

After Big Momma traded back some of her first aid supplies to Henry, everybody noticed that their Frog prisoner Ribbit had disappeared. Sister Alleluia began preparing a trip to the east to finally take care of their encampment, but before she could leave Ribbit showed up just outside of town with a couple of former slavers from Jericho following him. When Alleluia approached them Ribbit got down on one knee and proclaimed "We follow you now." Alleluia considered the situation and declared to these men what she expected from them, or else she would kill them, and when she finished talking they replied in unison "Amen."



The Sorrow awoke in the mine underneath Jericho. She was confronted by the sight of Syn, not quite knowing what it was, and she could see Mercy exhuming bodies from the mine while Uno, Dos, and Tres discussed how they should minister to Syn's needs. Mercy caught The Sorrowsneaking around and briefly explained that she had taken care of The Sorrow while she was knocked out. Mercy also explained that she was no longer in the Nuns as she had been taken "as close to Heaven as she had ever been" by Syn, she explained that Big Boss had sealed the mine they were in, and now Mercy was exhuming the bodies and giving them a funeral and "a proper release to the light."

Meanwhile, Sister Alleluia was still walking toward the strip mall where the other Frogs were supposedly camped. On the way she saw a large creature hiding in bushes along the road, rather than investigate she scared the creature off but it didn't flee very far. Within sight of the strip mall, Sister Alleluia found a large white RV with it's engine running. While investigating Sister Alleluia was struck from behind by the creature from the bushes. They fought briefly but Alleluia was unhurt, and proceeded to search the RV. She decided to use the RV to ambush the Frogs behind the strip mall and proceeded to ram the vehicle through the building. On the other side she found them torturing somebody and she drove through their encampment, taking out several of them in the process. As Sister Alleluia stepped out from the RV she convinced the remaining Frogs to surrender, killing one of them. The man they were torturing was William Aitch, and he was very distressed that his RV was smashed to pieces. He asked for help getting his RV back onto the road, but the undercarriage was damaged and trying to drive it back through the remains of the strip mall caused it to get stuck. Sister Alleluia returned to Jericho with a few of her gang following behind, and the rest guarding William Aitch'es RV.

In Jericho, somebody had destroyed the fuel refinery, the main source of income for the town. Big Momma Superior found pieces of a grenade near the fuel pump and while investigating several Nuns approached her about damaged bikes, somebody had stolen wheels from one of their bikes and several other bikes had slashed tires and punctured fuel tanks while Sister Alleliua's bike was also stripped of all of it's ammo.

The Sorrow went to Cletus for some medical attention, and he attempted to use his connection to the psychic maelstrom to heal her. It worked, but in the process both of them had a momentary lapse of consciousness.

Syn began detecting envy in the town and decided to fly upwards to get a better look.

When Sister Alleluia returned to town she was informed about the vandalism to the bikes and immediately sought out the criminals responsible, finding evidence that the gypsies who had just arrived in town were doing it. She killed one in the process of interrogating them and discovered that Calico is the leader of all the gypsies traveling between towns, but Calico wants a permanent home in Jericho and sent some of his men to stir up shit and make it easier for him to take over. One of the dead gypsies was hung from the main gates and Syn proceeded to eat the body. While Alleluia continued to fight with the gypsies and tried to discover exactly where Calico was, Syn grabbed one of the gypsy minivans and carried it into the air, with people inside screaming. Once it was high above town, Syn let go of the minivan and it crashed into the ground just outside of the gates, killing all inside.

Governor Isle didn't approve of the way Sister Alleluia was handling the gypsies and the two faced off, with Alleluia seriously injuring Isle and killing several of her men. Big Momma tried to restrain Alleluia and somehow Isle escaped in the confusion. Sister Alleluia declared that they needed a new leader for the town and gave an ultimatum for Jericho, "Vote for me, or leave."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

HX, Bonds & Alignment

First up, HX. Or History.
There's nothing inherently wrong with the HX system in Apocalypse World, but it's confusing. Even when players understand it, they can mess it up. Last week I was telling a player eye-to-eye "You write down either 0 or -2 based on what the other players say" and they still managed to mess that up because they were reading the playbook and switching up the instructions between what you write down and what you tell other players. I've played or MCed Apocalypse World nine times, with eight different groups of players, and every time calculating HX is confusing and stops everybody's momentum.

It would be easier if it were sped along and simpler. Either you tell other players what to write for their HX with you and they don't modify it, or everybody starts with the same numbers and it gets modified by yourself (secretly).

Secondly, alignment.

In Dungeon World, each class has a certain number of alignments that give them class-specific XP bonuses when they act upon that alignment. For example, if you're playing a Good Wizard then you get 1 XP whenever you "use magic to directly aid another." That's pretty open-ended. If I use a cantrip to light another character's torch then technically I've used magic to aid another, right? Some people might read that as you need to apply a more valuable level of magic to aid somebody, but that's not what the alignment says or how it reads. An Evil Wizard needs to "use magic to cause terror and fear" which is a pretty specific kind of use in comparison and maybe an easy way to do this might be to use a few cantrips to freak out some local villagers and maybe you'll get your XP to pop, but it seems like one of these can fit within your usual state of play easily and the other requires you to go out of your way to be a dick to NPCs.

"Well, yeah, he's evil."

Uh, no. Being evil doesn't mean you're a dick to random strangers for no good reason. Being evil means you serve none but yourself. Your actions must be immoral, wicked, or depraved, but not needless or without motivation. Withholding aid or information so that you can profit before somebody else or have an advantage over them, providing misleading information for the same reasons, insisting on receiving a higher share of the treasure or just taking more of it openly or secretly, going out of your way to hinder a potential rival in a demeaning or humiliating way, actively sabotaging somebody just to make them look bad or to embarrass them. These are evil acts. I don't even think my description here can suitably be called evil (maybe Vanilla Evil?) because truly reprehensible acts could also fall under evil, but I'm assuming most players don't want to play rapists, murderers, and pedophiles.

When I think back on the arguments I had around gaming tables during my teenage AD&D years the only thing that ever comes to mind are debates that surrounded role-playing alignment properly. "But I'm chaotic!" was a pretty common refrain I heard from people who did things that seemed out of character, and when I once attempted to play a lawful character my GM hounded me about how I wasn't living up to his expectations of the alignment.

Alignment has always been, in my opinion, a poor method for guiding a character's growth or goals.

So why not just have a goal? Your character should always have a long-term goal once they've developed, but short-term goals work too.

Third, bonds.

Bonds are a clever little way of pushing the players into having their characters explore relationships with the other players' characters. They're one sentence descriptive qualifiers for the relationship your character has with another character. At the end of every session you can resolve one Bond and receive 1 XP for it, as long as both you and the other player agree that the Bond is resolved. But they're also one-sided, and arbitrary.

If I write that my wizard "Thinks Grold the dwarf would make a good bodyguard" then I am motivated to either explore this idea or follow through with the idea if I want to resolve this bond, but the player of Grold might have "I would never work for Thorp the wizard" and I might never learn this through play. Eventually I might give up my plan of having Thorp try to hire Grold and resolve the bond because I just think he won't ever work for me. So I resolve that Bond and the player of Grond says "Oh really? I guess that would resolve my Bond too because if you stop offering employment I'll stop denying to work for you." We have a good chuckle about how our Bonds were set up, each mark 1 XP, and move on, writing new Bonds perhaps for each other again or perhaps for other PCs. Now here's the weird part, Grond can work for Thorp now and it would seemingly fly in the face of the previously written Bonds.

I don't know if that's why they were designed that way, that your characters' relationships would be allowed to change so drastically, but while playing characters I have found the system discordant and it pushes me to contrive relationships when I don't normally want to. Sometimes I really like the Bond I have too, and constantly shifting relationships means I am less likely to keep that one-sentence qualifier. There have been times when another player changes their character's Bond with my character and then my Bond feels irrelevant and then I feel forced to change it. The rules also state you can only resolve one Bond per session, and I know I've played in two sessions where it felt like more than one Bond resolved by the end.

Overall, I think it's an improvement over the confusing nature of Apocalypse World's HX system and I like the concept, but I don't like the execution of the idea or the restrictions placed upon resolution.

So why not improve HX by making it simpler to calculate? Then add Bonds that connect the two characters but won't resolve unless HX resets?

Goals
Each character has two Goals, it's implied that one should be short-term and the other long-term but that's not required. During the first session, nobody has to have a goal unless they want one, but by the end of the first session the character should have at least one goal. By the end of the third session, they should have a long-term goal.

Alternate HX+Bonds #1
Each character also has History with every other character. This starts at 0 but might be added to or subtracted from based on the other characters, there is no "others' turn" in this new system. For each History you also have a Bond which is written by the other player, with your approval, and when your History resets with them they re-write a new Bond for you, with your approval. You both work together to figure out how your characters are Bonded.

Let's take an Angel, Battlebabe, Brainer, Chopper, and Gunlugger, the first five playbooks and line them up as PCs. They all have 0 History with one another.
The Angel tells the Battlebabe "You helped me save a life, so add +2 History." and the Battlebabe says "Everybody gets +1 with me, so Angel, take +1 History." and then they determine their Bonds. The Angel says "I think I can rely on you to do the right thing." and writes that next to the +1. The Battlebabe says "I think you need to protect yourself and stay out of trouble." and writes that next to the +2. The Angel then goes around the table until his History box looks like this
Battlebabe +1, I can rely on her to do the right thing
Brainer -1, I won't let her near me
Choppper +1, We're friendly but not close enough
Gunlugger -2, I'm scared she'll turn on me

Alternate HX+Bonds #2
In this version there is no "your turn" for distributing numbers. Everybody starts at 0 and you secretly (or not-so-secretly) modify it on your own playbook.
This version means the Angel has 0 written for everybody, except those he personally modifies. Keeping the Bonds the same, this looks like this...
Battlebabe -1, I can rely on her to do the right thing
Brainer -1, I won't let her near me
Choppper -1, We're friendly but not close enough
Gunlugger -1, I'm scared she'll turn on me

Less interesting. HX+Bonds version #1 it is!

Addendum
At the end of a session you still go around the table and players declare which character knows theirs better, but if History ever resets then the Bond resets as well.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Apocalypse World: the Nuns of Anarchy

We didn't know what we were going to play. I opened the table up to discussing options and offered lots of them: I was prepped for another Apocalypse World game, I was also prepped to run Dungeon Crawl Classics or Lamentations of the Flame Princess, I had the character sheets ready for a Stars Without Number game, and I also offered other options of Shadowrun and Mage and 5eD&D, but in the end the players whittled down the options until it was Apocalypse World. One player had already written up a character, and the rest of the players just started to revolve around what he set up.

Big Momma Superior is the leader of the Nuns of Anarchy biker gang. A small group of women who've embraced Big Momma's interpretation of the old religion. Described as "we help the needy and the starving, we free the enslaved, and we only kill when necessary." The members of the gang who have earned Sister rank wield big heavy rulers, and those who are still earning their way in the gang use baseball bats and lead pipes, sometimes with crudely drawn inch markings along the cylinders.

Sister Alleluia, the former wife of Big Boss, a slaver who ran the walled shantytown of Jericho. Big Boss was a violent and vindictive man who tormented everyone around him, including his wife Marie. Marie killed her husband during Big Momma's rebellion against the town's slavers and when the people of Jericho were freed, Marie joined the Nuns and was immediately made a Sister. She later took the name Sister Alleluia.

Mercy was once a slave in Jericho and is now an Acolyte of the Nuns. She was born to pagan tribals from out west who raised horses and traded them with the local communities, until one day the slavers in Jericho wiped most of them out and enslaved the women and children. Mercy was freed from her bonds by Big Momma herself and she joined the Nuns soon after.

Cletus is the town medic, he runs an infirmary on the side of a hill sloping underneath the east wall of Jericho, and he can be found there most of the time. While he's not a member of the Nuns, he describes himself as an "angel" and claims to have been "called" to it. He travels with the Nuns when they visit neighboring communities, sometimes to offer aid to their neighbors and sometimes just to aid the Nuns.

the Sorrow is a former slave who also joined the Nuns after being freed by Big Momma. She carries around a very visible sadness and bleakness that makes some people uneasy or distrustful. She is also the most secretive, as very few know anything about her from before she arrived in Jericho. The Sorrow was forced to be a prostitute, and many of the women in Jericho who are former slaves are also former prostitutes.

All of these characters live in Jericho, but the neighboring communities are visited frequently by Big Momma Superior and the Nuns.

While designing the world we decided that the world had a Biblical apocalypse where most of humanity died or disappeared, but most people don't really know what happened. It's obscured by rumor and mystery. There are stories of beasts that rose out of the seas and giants living in the earth, and some people even claim to have seen one but the proof of these things is never confirmed. The sky, on the other hand, is visibly changed. The world is shrouded within a nearly perpetual darkness thanks to heavy clouds which cover the sky and produce lightning storms. Rain is common, but not always pleasant as it always falls with hail. The world is a cold place though it never seems to snow, nor does the temperature ever drop to a freezing point. The plants manage to weakly sprout despite the sun's concealment behind the clouds, but sunlight does peek out from behind the clouds sometimes, and that is usually a day for celebration and feasting.

In Jericho, the town is run by Governor Isle, a former slave, but she defers most of her decisions to a council comprised of six women, all are former slaves. There is a central well that people collect water from, and rainwater is also collected on the gutters of roofs. There is an fuel refinery in the center of town, but it hasn't pumped for some time. Outside of the walls the citizens tend crops that grow thin in the muddy hilltops.

The Seminary is a haven for the Nuns but is rarely visited. The place looks like a single sprawling building from the road and few people actually live there.

A man named Ivan runs the town of Perostroika. The center of their town has an old electrical station, and Ivan rations the electricity out to anybody who he deems worthy of having it. They rarely trade with their neighbors directly, Ivan prefers outsiders to visit the town and be beholden to his laws.

In Horse the Night Mother (maybe a title?) runs a theocratic village where they worship the night and believe bad things happen when the sun comes out from behind the clouds. They reject the old Bible and while Big Momma Superior has never had a direct confrontation with the Night Mother or any of the locals from Horse she knows that they won't offer hospitality to her or the Nuns.

Hunter's Palace is run by a tough woman named Heston, her laws are few but the penalties are strict. Criminals whom she exiles get hunted like animals, as there are so few good opportunities for sport in the wasteland.

Fresh Whiskey is the name of a bar and pool hall on the side of the road, there is no town nearby and no other buildings surround it or stand nearby. It is run by a burly man with thick scars across his face, everybody calls him Frank.

The town of Black Grass is not so much a town as it is a warning. The map might as well say 'here there be dragons' as nobody ever ventures that far south.

The Fort has been left undefined.

I looked at maps until I found some real world equivalent to the roads I had drawn in my initial sketch. I found a really good similarity between my rough map and the area around Huntsville, Alabama and redrew the roads of the map to reflect the major highways around that region.

I took absolutely no notes about what happened during the first play session. Here's what I remember:

A local from Jericho named Oberon was seen running through town with a mewling baby in his arms.
He was being tracked by three teenagers with greenish skin, he called them "the Frogs" and claimed they were trying to take the baby away.
Cletus tried to stop them but ended up getting stonewalled by the youths who were adamant that the old man had kidnapped the kid, though he believed they were lying.
Sister Alleluia interrogated the teens roughly and ended up shooting one in the head.
Big Momma Superior showed up shortly afterward and Sister Alleluia's machinegun accidentally discharged into Cletus.
The Frogs who were still alive, Ula and Ribbit, were told to leave town and never come back, while Oberon was calmed down in Cletus'es infirmary by Sister Mercy.
Eventually Oberon found a way to escape with the baby but was stopped by Cletus and again interrogated, but this time by the Sorrow who learned that the locals in Horse are committing human sacrifices.
The baby was wrested away from Oberon and given to Jenny Two-times who was both a mother and a nursemaid.
Grid the Watcher lives next to the infirmary, he watches from his home but never leaves.
Later that night by one of the Frogs had returned to town to ransack through Cletus'es infirmary, Cletus caught him but got beaten into unconsciousness. When he woke, Cletus used some painkillers on himself that would leave him out of action for the next day.

I have one NPC whose name I wrote down, Lecter, but I don't remember what I had them doing, if anything.

During our second session, Big Momma Superior instructed Sister Alleluia to protect the baby and she interpreted that as kill anybody who tries to take the baby away from Jenny Two-times.

Big Momma Superior was being hassled by some of the Nuns to drive down to Horse and take care of the Night Mother. She decided the best course of action was to go down and scout it out quietly, but Motown (one of the Nuns) kept giving resistance to her slow and peaceful resolve. Big Momma visited the infirmary and traded with Ruth for some first aid supplies, and gathered more than half of her gang to go scout around Horse.

Sister Alleluia stayed behind to protect the baby, and Cletus was still unconsciousness from the night before.

The gang didn't even make it halfway to Perostroika before they ran into trouble. A semi trailer had been tipped over and was blocking the road. It looked like an accident, as the metal of the trailer was ripped in some places and the seams were split along the edge of the roof. Something could be seen skittering around inside the trailer. Very carefully Sister Mercy approached the back of the trailer, pried it open and revealed a long coiling snake-like creature with spindly legs along the underside of it's body. It was wrapped around some sort of machinery in the trailer and as the warmth from it's nest escaped the back of the trailer it tensed and began to move around. Small white eggs could be seen all along the inside of the trailer, sitting along the floor and walls.
Big Momma Superior coordinated her gang to rip the roof of the trailer and expose the nest completely, but by then it had started to escape and grabbed Sister Mercy as it fled. Several of the Nuns chased after the creature and struck it with their bats and pipes and it released Mercy. In the trailer itself, The Sorrow was trying to get a better look at the machinery and jumped into the nest, then kicked out any of the young she found still lingering. Big Momma set about trying to determine the best way to take this machine, which nobody knew what it did, back to Jericho. She returned to Jericho by herself, leaving five Nuns at the trailer wreckage, and sending The Sorrow and Sister Mercy on to Horse with Sister Marilyn, Motown, and Twinkie

Back in Jericho, Sister Alleluia was picking up some bread for Jenny Two-times when she overheard the baker, Notch, talking with somebody about how the Frogs didn't even travel south when Big Momma threw them out of town. Sister Alleluia wanted to follow up on this lead but was delayed by Cletus who was checking in on the baby and explained that he had been beaten by one of the Frogs who had returned to steal from his infirmary.
Sister Alleluia wanted to know how the Frog had gotten in and upon approaching the infirmary they saw the door open and blood splashed across the floor. The same Frog had returned to the infirmary and was looting the place, during the break-in he had killed Ruth. Sister Alleluia quickly subdued the Frog and interrogated him, promising not to kill him if he told them where he was from, and he confirmed that they were from Horse but a group of them were camped out just east of town, though he didn't specify where. Cletus found Henry in the back, unconscious and hurt but alive.

Big Momma Superior arrived back in town and hearing that the Frogs were nearby decided to lock down the town and shut the gates, there was some debate whether they should chase after the Frogs that were camped outside of town or continue with trying to bring the machinery back to Jericho. Big Momma elected to focus on the machinery and gathered three more Nuns to assist in towing the trailer back, and even though Sister Alleluia wanted to go hunt down the Frogs by herself she followed Big Momma's commands.

The drizzle of rain that had been building up finally broke into a storm. Two days passed and the trailer had been towed to Jericho, Sister Alleluia decided to cook some of the snake-spider eggs and they turned translucent from the heat but tasted good nonetheless.

The next session will start by determining exactly how the scouting mission around Horse fared...