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Topics - plausiblefabulist

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1
Apocalypse World / Swapping out the sex moves with Secrets
« on: July 20, 2016, 11:31:45 PM »
I'm about to play Apocalypse World with some 12-year-olds! I've been holding off on introducing it to my son & his friends -- Mad Max fans all -- due to the sex moves, but I think I've figured out how to swap them out. Here's the hack:

During character creation, after the Hx round, everyone comes up with two Secrets. Add this section to each playbook:
Quote
Secrets
No one else knows that:
Only one other person (it's ___________) knows that:

And in all the "[Playbook] Special" moves, replace "If you and another character have sex," with "If you tell one of your Secrets to another character,"

If we were playing more than a one-off, I'd probably have to figure out some way to replenish the mechanical Secrets with fictional Secrets that emerge from play.

We'll see how it goes.


2
I'm still actually working on Shtetl World, the long-form, dreidels-instead-of-dice AW hack version of this game. We had a couple of really fun playtests at Camp Nerdly and I am trying to drum one up for Wiscon. After that I will probably post a link here to the Google Doc of the current rules...

I wrote some code to test out the dreidel mechanic's probability characteristics -- both a web page where you can try out the dreidels to get a feel for the results (which could also be used to play the game, if you lack dreidels) and a more analytic program which lists the outcomes of all the possible dreidel tosses at different levels of stats.

Dreidel simulator: http://benjaminrosenbaum.github.io/shtetl-world-tools/
Code (including the python analysis scripts) here: https://github.com/benjaminrosenbaum/shtetl-world-tools

3
Freebooting Venus / Two-player Freebooting Venus
« on: January 03, 2016, 02:58:08 PM »
Much of my available roleplaying time is one-on-one with my 12 year old son. Murderous Ghosts is a little too dark for me to try with him, and most of the great storygames, like Fiasco and all the AW hacks I've seen, are so driven by PC relationships and multiple-person collaboration that they don't work so well one-on-one.

Freebooting Venus looks like an excellent candidate! Reading through the rules, the only thing that seems to absolutely demand a multi-player party is the list of questions in the opening situation, and I guess those could be adapted ("why are you taking this personally?")

Anyone have any tips, experiences, or recommendations for FV with a single player and GM?


4
Apocalypse World / Scarcity of room
« on: October 21, 2014, 10:02:24 PM »
I've realized that there's a new Principle I need to add to my Apocalypse World games, one that is quite counterintuitive but which I think is implicit in the game design, and that's that one of the scarcities is a scarcity of room.

Let me come at this from an odd angle -- from out on a limb -- and say that it seems to me that if AW had to look back at all the games that came before it and pick one cardinal sin that it wanted to stand against and uproot, that sin would be railroading. And in doing so, AW explicitly disallowed railroading, built a game against railroading, and tried to find other solutions for one of the primary causes of railroading; and failed to address the other most common cause.

I have not done a statistically valid survey, but I would bet that the most common causes of railroading are a) that the GM has overprepared a bunch of content, and needs to force players who wander away from it, back into it, and that b) "to keep the party together". Or, more broadly: that the plot and narrative needs of the game are misaligned with the social needs, to wit, we came together to play a game together, and we want to play up against one another's characters -- but the characters themselves don't have all that much in-game fictional need to treat the other characters as the most important and crucial people in the world.

AW handily solves a) by making plot emergent, and when I'm MC'ing, I never find myself tempted to apply force to get the PCs back onto "my plot". because there is no "my plot", just what the PCs do and what comes of it.

AW has some tools to attempt to solve b). It throws the PCs at each other, it allows the MC to arbitrarily stick them together by simply declaring a scene, it tries to entangle them with Hx, it provides threats for them to unite against.

In my games, this doesn't help for all that long. The PCs are thrown together at the beginning, but pretty soon, left as they are to follow their own drives and visions, they disperse, and the game is a series of unlinked one-on-one PC-and-MC exchanges happening roughly in parallel.

When I say "keep the party together" I don't mean in the same room or even facing the same threat. I just mean affecting each other, inhabiting the same set of concerns, the same landscape, thematically connected.

I think the solution is to make room scarce -- put impassible deserts and emptinesses in the characters' way, force them to fall back on the same limited set of resources, to struggle over the same small world. There are bits of the rules that imply this, but it's never stated. and so I didn't do it. In my games, food and water and physical safety and love and understanding and peace have been safe, but room hasn't -- PCs have all hied off to other hardholds, over mountains, into the psychic maelstrom itself, off into separate stories.

I'm betting the reason it's not in the rules is that for Vincent and the people he plays with, it's intuitive: he's interested in small communities, in people flung together, and that impassible deserts seem not even worth mentioning, because he's just not that interested in what lies beyond them. Whereas me and my gang are naturally expansive, and ready to drop doors to other planes and being swept off to other lands into any game at the drop of a hat. Our PCs have no in-game reason to stick together, and until now I haven't had the Principle of throwing them together.

5
AW:Dark Age / Bounty and season moves
« on: September 16, 2014, 09:52:00 PM »
I feel like there is more to be said about bounties than the playtest docs so far give us.

Mechanically, at the moment, "a bounty" is an output to several moves, most importantly the season end moves and certain rights, and it's an input to a couple of moves involving sacrifice and enchantment or luck/harvest/victory.

The bounties we know about are meat, fur, mead-and-meat, food, and coin.

A few things about this:

- in marked contrast to AW Classic, where securing the 1-barter necessary to, at a minimum, make it through the month without starving can be a matter of some urgency, there is nothing mechanical in the rules about hunger or other needs. Obviously, narratively, the MC can threaten you with starvation, but there's no clue how the bounty rules relate to this. Let's say you did end up with a bounty of mead and meat -- is that enough to last you for a week? A month? A season? A year? To last your family for a month? To last your household, your holding, your people, for a month? We know "a bounty" is one unit of sacrifice, but we don't know anything about it as a unit of economy or survival.

- there are also no trade and barter moves to speak of, and no explicit bounties of trade goods, which is interesting in a game which makes explicit reference to various kinds of trade (such as "the spice trade") and at a time when merchants and markets were an important source of political power -- lords granting privileges and rights to townspeople in order to attract trade, profit from it, and be able to grant food, boons and wealth to warriors was an  important factor in political power, and the Stronghold rules correctly suggest that ports and markets were important things to protect -- for just this reason.

- in terms of economic production, the industries suggested by the bounties are three: food production, hunting for fur, and soldiering. One glaring omission here is textile production, especially of wool. In her notes on writing Hild (which I strongly encourage anyone interested in AW:DA to read!), Nicola Griffith said that she ran across historian's estimate that women in the Dark Ages of all social classes spent 65% of their waking hours engaged in textile production -- shearing, carding, spinning, weaving, sewing. They weren't just hanging out At The Hearth with their hands empty. (Ah, here it is: http://asknicola.blogspot.com/2012/06/hild-and-her-gemcce.html ).

- On the other hand, "coin" was pretty rare. "Treasure" -- brooches, fine cloth, ivory, beautiful knives -- or boons (even a grant of land) seem a more likely outcome of a bout of Dark Ages soldiering than "coin". Especially as the game has otherwise no monetary economy.

- there is an apparent scaling problem in the use of "a bounty" in the individual season moves and in the People season move "prepare for what's coming". If I work as a tenant laborer I end up with a bounty of food -- in exchange for my individual, presumably unskilled, labor. If I prepare a people for what's coming, on a miss I generate nothing, on the most likely 7-9 result I also produce... a bounty of food. Is that the same sized bounty? How long will it feed the people, vs. the tenant laborer? If we follow the rules correctly, and both the tenant laborer and the People Prepared For What's Coming find they need to make an enchantment to deal with what's coming, they have the same amount of bounty to offer. Is there some scaling factor there, like when the People offers a bounty the enchantment will protect all of them, while the individual's bounty is smaller? The rules offer no such provision.




6
AW:Dark Age / Yiddin' up AW:DA 0.2
« on: September 12, 2014, 06:21:20 PM »
Given the earlier conversation we had (http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=6791.msg29835, http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=6728.msg29909) on the topic of religious diversity in the Dark Ages and in AW:DA 0.1, I thought y'all might be interested in seeing what I did with the stuff Vincent came up with for 0.2, in the PBP game I jumped in on with Ich, Borogrove & co over on GotExp.com.

I love the way that, between the 0.1 and 0.2 playtests, peoplehood and religion have morphed from a couple of preset elements into an entire people-and-religion-generating kit. I also like how well the Court Wizard can be made to correspond to the "not from around here, and know things you don't that will be useful to you" archetype we talked about in those earlier threads.

For context, this campaign is set in an area where the Algonquian-speaking Lowa are cheek-by-jowl with the formerly dominant Greek-speaking Aristidites; after the fall of the Empire of Eagles, the former revolted and asserted dominance over the latter. There are slaves, and a large Freedman population who are forbidden to own land or bear arms; mechanically, this is my character Meir's People (though I'm wondering if I should create his sect, the Dorshei HaOr, as a People even though there are only two of them present in the campaign setting and they aren't really known for anything there -- to themselves they're Dorshei HaOr, but to the people around them they're Freedmen).

I'm hoping there will be an interesting tension between the very tribal/Dark Ages mentality that the other characters and Peoples represent, and Meir's fundamentally cosmopolitan/ideological/survival-of-late-antiquity Gnostic-sect worldview.

I am also coming to the conclusion that the current instantiation of AW:DA doesn't really want to be historical fantasy, nor does it want to be fantasy, nor does it want to be fantastical history -- it wants to be fantastical alternate history. In other words, the game doesn't so much encourage you to make up historically-inluenced fantastical cultures out of whole cloth, nor to recreate real historical episodes, as much as it encourages you to mix-and-match elements from real history in a "it might have been" mode.That's the effect of having Greeks and Algonquians as the two major groups duking it out in the wake of the "Empire of Eagles"''s withdrawl; the Romans *could* have settled Greeks in, say, Iceland, and the Algonquians *could* have reached it be canoe? Or maybe not that precise, but at least "what if these two groups had met?" So, on a smaller scale, that's what I went for with the Dorshei HaOr, remixing elements of real late-antiquity Gnosticism...

---------------

Meir ben Rachel HaDoresh, the Court Wizard, an untypical man of the Freedmen people, originally of the Dorshei HaOr.

Bold: 0
Good: +1
Strong: -1
Wary: +1
Weird: +2

Meir is a member of a Gnostic Hellenistic-Hebraic sect, the Dorshei HaOr (seekers of light), which lives in the decaying war-torn cities of the more populous and ancient regions to the Southwest. He had a family and livelihood as a scholar there, but, in his thirties, his city was destroyed by invaders and he and his family were sold as slaves; he has not seen them again.

The Dorshei HaOr believe that the world we live in was created by Samael, an evil Demiurge who betrayed the true God, and that Samael controls everything that happens in it. The world is a prison, built to contain and diminish human souls, which are flecks of light that were broken off of the true God in the primordial battle. The true God is not merely powerless in this world, but unutterably remote: Meir has no right to call upon HIm, nor any other God, nor would it do him any good if he did. But Sophia, the daughter of the true God, sacrificed herself, allowing herself to be imprisoned in this world's prison-hell in order to aid and comfort the imprisoned souls. She, too, cannot act against Samael; but she appears in this world in the form of human wisdom and inquiry, which offers the possibility of allowing the soul-flecks of light buried within our corrupt bodies to escape, at death, beyond the world-prison and merge with the Godhead. (When consulting the other world, Meir meditates on the subtle traces the imprisoned Sophia has left in the observable universe). The purpose of this life is to endure the torments of this world while steadfastly pursuing wisdom and the good. Everything Meir has experienced to date has strengthened his convictions about this belief system. When his rights are denied, the True God is never outraged, because the entire world is an expression of the great betrayal of Samael.

The Dorshei HaOr use a matronymic naming system, which is why Meir's full name is "Meir, son of Rachel".

As a slave Meir was sold many times, eventually ending up, in his forties, sold to Lowa -- possibly via the Fortunate Gull -- when the slave trade was still active (or at least still tolerated behind the scenes?), before the new political dispensation. He worked in Lowa for a decade as a slave, beginning as a tutor for wealthy Aristidites families, eventually becoming a trusted personal advisor, prized for his literacy, numeracy, eloquence, and broad experience of different forms of the administration of estates; eventually, in recognition of his services, he was freed. Despite his comptence and reliability he is often sullen, withdrawn, and even bitter; however, during the political upheavals he involved himself in attempts to mediate between the factions. Although he failed in his efforts to forestall bloodshed, he was able to aid some of the children he tutored to escape, while impressing the new rulers enough with his skills and rhetoric to be incorporated into the new power structure. and this also meant that he was retained as an advisor under the new dispensation. In fact, his fortunes rose; with the dearth of men of learning after the uprising, he became a court advisor to the Stronghold. His position is precarious, and some resent him. As a Freedman, he has no right to bear arms, nor to possess land; he engages in some business dealings which have allowed him to accumulate some wealth, which he has mostly invested in his library, and in ransoming Levi (see below).

Meir is now in his fifites, an advanced age for this area. He speaks fluent Greek and Hebrew, and a smattering of Skraeling and Arabic; he is, of course, not permitted to actually speak Hebrew or Arabic in Lowa.

RIGHTS
  • Meir is literate in Greek and in Hebrew (which latter he is, however, forbidden from speaking).He has the right to own and read books, including religious, legal, historical, and administrative texts, and to conduct writtencorrespondence beyond simple message-passing and note-leaving.
  • Meir has the right to step out of his earthly life and journey in other places, as a result of his training in Gnostic meditation, which has slackened the tie between his soul and its corporeal prison (without, however, allowing him to escape the world of Samael). When he chooses to do so, he rolls his Weird. On 10+, Meir chooses his destination, and has both wits and strength therein. On 7–9, he chooses his destination, but the firrst time he misses a roll in that other world, he returns at once to earthly life. On a miss, the MC chooses his destination.
  • When Meir encounters something unnatural, he has the right to roll his Wary. On 10+, he asks the MC 2 of the following. On 7–9, he asks 1.
    • Is this a thing of old ways, new ways, or ways unknown to me?
    • What manner of person made this thing, or is it its own?
    • For what does this thing hunger, or by what has it sated itself?
    • What would this thing make the world into, if it only could?
    On a miss, he asks 1, but the thing may ask a question of him in return, from this list or of its own devising, which he must answer truthfully.
  • Meir has the right to rest and relief from all labor and strife, one day out of every seven.
HOUSEHOLD
Meir is the head of his household, such at it is: he occupies bare rooms within the Stronghold, which he shares with Levi ben Talia HaDoresh, a fellow member of his sect (though not anyone he knew personally) who he was able to locate, ransom, and free; thus Levi is also a Freedman. Levi is despondent, morose, and somewhat self-destructive; he occasionally works as a laborer, but, despite the fact that he is also literate, no one will have him as a tutor or accountant; he's too much of a pain in the ass. Mostly he sits around all day in Meir's apartments bemoaning his fate.

The household has:
A library -- roughly 50 codexes and scrolls in Greek and Hebrew (and an occasional document in Persian or Arabic which neither Meir nor Levi can read), very strong in eschatology and mystical speculation but also with some geography, history, linguistics, and medicine.

Mostly Meir and Levi eat bread, fruit, mushrooms, and boiled eggs, but once a week a Lowa girl, Nuna, comes to cook them a meal.

PERSONAL BELONGINGS
Clothing: A rough tunic and trousers
Drinking cup: A tin cup engraved with allegorical Gnostic figures (tree, dragon, broken clay vessels and light streaming from clouds), bought from a trader.
Knife: dull, cord-wrapped, barely fit to cut an apple.

7
Hey folks

So I just got a playtest version of Dream Apart slapped together. It is a hack of Avery McDaldno's Dream Askew (which is a deep mechanics-rethinking hack of AW, inverting the mechanics so that players co-MC, a token economy replaces dice, and PC moves look like NPC/Threat moves) in the Shtetl World setting.

The Character types are The Sorcerer, The Matchmaker, The Midwife, The Klezmer, The Soldier and The Scholar, and it's set in a fantastical shtetl in the Pale of Settlement in Russia in the 1850s.

I want to take a few more passes on it before I post it publicly for general download, but if you are hankering to playtest and give feedback, send me a private message with your email...

8
The title says it all. The milieu is his own vast imaginative fantasy world, reminiscent of Dr. Who, Silver Age Marvel cosmic Lee/Kirby shenanigans (Dr. Strange, Thor, Galactus and the Silver Surfer) and Dune/Star Wars style planetary romance. 

Noah would love any feedback.

http://tinyurl.com/galaxy-world-game


9
AW:Dark Age / Bloodless Xristos
« on: March 05, 2014, 11:08:01 AM »
I think the treatment of Bloodless Xristos is really interesting, and I'm wrestling with it. Various distinct differences between the game's treatment and historical Christianity jump out, and seem worth mentioning.

Most strikingly, there is no Papal Rome. There is no Bishop of Xristos who is a claimant to the throne of the Empire of Eagles, transmuted from a worldly to a celestial reign. It's not clear that the Empire of Eagles ever converted en masse to the religion of Xristos, and persecuted followers of the Gods of the Empire of Eagles with its imperial might. It's not clear that there was ever (and it's sort of implied that there wasn't ever) a fusion of the imperial values of hierarchy, control, and expansion with the monastic and utopian values of the followers of Xristos. One would not expect, from the short description here, monasteries of Bloodless Xristos functioning as an intact network of trade and information, directed from an imperial center, in a hierarchy of control. One would not expect priests reporting to bishops reporting to monsignors reporting to cardinals. There seems to be disagreement among followers of Xristos, but no ecumenical councils banning heretics.

Secondly, Xristos seems to have sprung from nowhere -- neither from the Old Gods, nor from the Gods of the Empire of Eagles, but also not from any rebellious province with its own pre-existing monotheism. Xristos begins life by creating the world -- as opposed to being initially a man, claimed as a king of a specific people, elevated to Godhood, and then awkwardly merged with a pre-existing world-creator God who already had a name. There is therefore not the embarrassment of a competing, older group, using the same books, offering the same narrative of world-creation, but scorning Xristos as a fanciful addition to the canon. The followers of Xristos are spared the misfortune of having to condemn these folks -- who would, if they existed, be found in all walks of life, but among other things as wealthy owners of villas, claiming the right to legal proceedings under the Law of the Empire of Eagles and owning slaves who are followers of Xristos -- as quasi-demonic outcasts eternally cursed for having spurned their Redeemer. The followers of Xristos need not petition kings and lords, demanding that these embarrassing predecessors be deprived of their slaves and holdings, forbidden from preaching, dispersed and banished.

There were also, as far as we know, no massively popular Mystery Religions competing with the familial and human gods of the Empire of Eagles; the legionnaires of the Eagles, unlike those of Rome, were not swayed en masse by the cults of Isis or Mithra.

So Xristos gets to be the only holistic, ineffable, mystical god, without having to appropriate anything from anyone, or claim to fulfill any particularistic prophecies of rebellious provinces. He is Logos, world-creator, without any awkward familial relationship to a pre-existing father-god who might be Himself, somehow. His followers never merged with empire, have no single Holy Father commanding them, no hierarchy, and no elder-sibling competitors to persecute

So if the followers of Xristos gain dominion over the land -- if, over the course of the next few hundred years, they come to almost fully displace the Old Gods and the Gods of the Empire of Eagles -- there doesn't seem to be that much to worry about, does there?. They are unlikely to wage war on heretics (since they are so benignly multifarous) or elder siblings(since they don't have any), or engage in pogroms and crusades. They really do hold peace, healing, mercy, penitence, and humility to be the greatest virtues... in deeds as well as words.  I guess we should be rooting for them, then.

Lucky Xristos!

As a first approximation of the English or Danish Dark Ages, erasing the Pope and the Jews does not cause tremendous historical problems. (It's much more of a distortion if dealing with, say, Merovignian France, or southern Germany.)

Still, it's an interesting choice. Xristos and his followers are sort of what Christianity -- especially a low-church Protestant Christianity -- would like to imagine that it was in the Dark Ages. As opposed to what it actually was. It's an idealized version.

Which is a political choice. One which, as a Jew, I'm a little uncomfortable with. That may be my baggage, of course.


10
AW:Dark Age / Wicker-wise
« on: March 05, 2014, 10:08:43 AM »
So my first question about the wicker-wise is: in what sense is "Inflict 2 Harm upon another, unwilling, with no
benefit of armor" a "sacrifice"?

I mean it might be a sacrifice, if there's no one around you want to inflict 2 Harm on. But it might also be a direct-damage attack on an enemy that you don't have to roll for. Is that the intention? Indeed, this "sacrifice" might be the primary effect you want out of the charm, in that case.

You're facing an enemy who is wounded but will yet see another sun rise. He's wearing armor; you're tied to a tree, and he's drawing a bead on you with his longbow from 20 paces away.  So you just do something random -- charm the peasant girl watching from behind the bush to fall in love with a sparrow in the tree above her, but only for an hour or less (the first sacrifice) -- so that you can do 2 harm to your enemy, past armor, as the second "sacrifice". Bam. The enemy drops dead, and you wriggle free of your bonds. Charming the peasant girl was just for amusement value, to watch her desperately woo the sparrow as it hops from branch to branch. The "sacrifice" was the real point of the action.

Note that the enemy in question could be a PC, who you just offed, and you didn't have to roll for it (so there wasn't even anything to interfere with, if the game had interfering).

Is this the intent? Or is it the intent that the sacrifice be an actual sacrifice -- like, "inflict 2 Harm upon an ally, servant, or friend, unwilling, with no benefit of armor"?


11
So I'm hoping to move this to a dedicated forum, but I'm impatient, so I thought I'd just start posting here in a thread.

Okay, I'm working on this hack, Shtetl World. It's wandered somewhat far afield from Apocalypse World, because the fundamental dice mechanic is different, so I'm not sure it even qualifies as a hack anymore. But the basic skeleton of agenda, principles, stats, moves, the conversation, play to find out what happens, is the same, more or less. Certainly it starts from AW. (It owes something to Dogs in the Vineyard and Storming the Tower too, as well as to Sagas of the Icelanders, Dungeon World, Monsterhearts, and Fiasco).

Shtetl World aims to recreate fantasy roleplaying as if its ur-text was Isaac Bashevis Singer rather than Tolkein. What does magical adventure fantasy look like if told from the point of view of European history's losers, rather than its winners? We weren't all knights, and we weren't THAT kind of cleric, either.

It's also a game with three Acts. They're sort of like Monsterhearts' Seasons, but with more structure; almost as much structure as Fiasco's Acts. I'll get to that in a bit.

Please feel free to chime in.





12
Apocalypse World / A move for a child character
« on: December 11, 2013, 09:57:36 PM »
I'm just sharing this because I'm quite pleased with it. I expect it may have been done before. Comments are welcome.

An eleven-year-old Savvyhead NPC [1] in our game is about to become a PC, and we're writing up the character sheet. She's an orphan from the wastelands, formerly of a horrific group of brigands who she was rather glad to escape from. She is therefore wary and has trust issues.

Since she's eleven, it makes no sense for her to have a sex move. Here's what she has instead:

Savvyhead Junior Special
When another character takes care of you like a parent, and you let them, they automatically speak to you, as though they were a thing and you’d rolled a 10+, whether you have the move or not. The other player and the MC will answer your questions between them. Otherwise, that move never works on people, only things.

I figure this would work for orphaned/emancipated/independent prepubescent PCs of lots of character classes -- "when another character takes care of you like a parent, and you let them" is probably going to be about the same bar emotionally, the same emotional risk, the same intensity, and not entirely dissimilar downsides and upsides, as the way the sex move works for adult characters.

Presumably, the other character's sex move won't trigger. Though if the Maestro D' hooks the Savvyhead up with something, that might (or might not?) count as taking care of her like a parent...

-------------
[1] => I realize that no NPC is ever actually a Savvyhead; they may be *called* a Savvyhead, but they're not a Savvyhead like the PC Savvyhead. But there was no PC Savvyhead, and now she is one.



13
brainstorming & development / mechanic for arranging marriages
« on: November 26, 2013, 03:25:22 PM »
This isn't even for a hack I'm actively working on at this point, more just a vague daydream of a hack I might one day make.

And it's also -- in my daydream -- wandered somewhat afield from the Powered by the Apocalypse structure, to the extent that I'm not sure it would even count as a hack anymore, despite being very much inspired by the Apocalyptikin (particularly Sagas of the Icelanders, with a bit of AW and Monsterhearts...). I'd keep the basic ideas of the conversation, with moves triggering as the interface between fiction and mechanics, and the core agenda, PC/NPC asymmetry, things like that.... but I might even mess with the central 2d6->6-/7-9/10+ paradigm.

But anyway, I'm thinking about a historical setting with bifurcated gender dynamics like Icelanders, in a community where marriage is considered basically the apex of human life and, if you asked people there what the victory condition of their existence was, marrying their children and grandchildren well would be a big part of it.

Agency in making a marriage is pretty distributed, with the bride and groom, both sets of parents, and one or more matchmakers all having some degree of say (of course, given the AW heritage, which of these happen to be the PCs has everything to do with how the mechanics fall out, so that if the PCs are young people it's them rolling to have some influence on who they marry, once they reach middle age they're rolling to try to achieve good marriages for their NPC children...)

Since this activity is among the central aspects of the game, I'd like it to have some meaty mechanics, to devote the same care and focus to it that Dungeon World devotes to combat, that Monsterhearts devotes to social exclusion and psychological bullying and manipulation, that AW devotes to the encounter with the incomprehensible beyond, that Sagas of the Icelanders devotes to negotiating honor and to scrabbling out an existence this side of starvation.

Any ideas?





14
Apocalypse World / Barter and Debt
« on: September 27, 2013, 09:52:20 AM »
Have any of you guys read David Graeber's Debt: The First 5000 Years?

Quote
In fact, our standard account of monetary history is precisely backwards. We did not begin with barter, discover money, and then eventually develop credit systems. It happened precisely the other way around....The reason that economic textbooks now begin with imaginary villages is because it has been impossible to talk about real ones. Even some economists have been forced to admit that [Adam] Smith's Land of Barter doesn't really exist.

- Debt: The First 5000 Years, Graeber, pp. 40-43

Graeber argues that spot-transaction barter -- "I'll give you this for one of those" -- is extremely rare in simple/disorganized/local societies. Instead, relationships work by patronage, heirarchy, gifting, and long-term, nonmonetary accounting of debt. In a place where most people don't move very far during their lives, where scarcity is high and monetary institutions are weak, you don't walk up to your neighbor and offer five chickens for his cow -- or, at least, you certainly don't do that with the assumption that the main thing under discussion is whether a cow is worth five chickens. What's primary is your relationship to the neighbor, and it's far more likely you'd be:

  • asking for a cow, which he gives magnanimously, which means that now you're on the hook -- you're his client, he's your patron, and you're going to owe him forever, and your relationship is going to be one of connectedness and asymmetry (you give him certain sorts of things, and he gives you other, distinct sorts of things) from now on -- like he gives you a cow, and tells you when it's time to take your gun and follow him into battle
asking for a cow, in the context of your being *his* patron, like cows are your due, and his due is something else, maybe protection
  • giving him chickens as a gift, refusing any payment, thereby one-upping him and making yourself the big man of the village, for which he may seek to revenge himself at the next practicable occasion by giving you a cow
  • giving him chickens as a gift, refusing any payment, with your eye on his cow, knowing full well he's going to have to make some sort of gift later or be branded a cheapskate; but, of course, he can respond not with his cow, but with his daughter instead; you don't get to pick
  • giving him the chickens because he's already got chickens, taking the cow because you have a butter churn, and the two of you are connected by so many threads of obligation and relation, your kids are married to each other, you're in the same secret society, etc., that even though the two of you are ruthlessly competitive and egotistical and constantly trying to get ahead of the other, this isn't played out in material goods -- not because of abundance, but because of scarcity: you can't really afford to do anything less than the optimal distribution of chickens and cows, and the social cost of not sharing the eggs and milk would be too high to consider that option.
  • giving him chickens, and noting that down in a ledger of accounts, which is carefully tracked and quantified in Silver Pounds (or dollars) even though no one has seen a physical Silver Pound (or dollar) around these parts for a long time, and at some point next year if you need a cow or something else, the line in the ledger will be scratched out [/lli]
Actual spot-transaction barter, by contrast, was generally used for the extremely rare -- and dangerous -- situation that you had complete strangers (automatically suspicious) who you for some reason would never deal with again. They are here, they have probably ill-gotten loot, and they wanted to trade it for something, and now you'd better make DAMN sure that what you give them is worth no more than what you get. But that's a novel, charged, situation. It suggests that you're dealing with, indeed, a band of "wandering adventurers", not characters rooted in a tangle of obligations, relationships, histories, and connections.

What do you all think of this in the context of AW's "barter"?


15
Apocalypse World / Secrets among players
« on: September 26, 2013, 06:26:10 PM »
So perhaps this is a dumb question, but I am trying to retool habits and expectations from the old days. I am loving the whatever-it-is, narrativist-forge-diaspora-third-wave-twentyfirst-century gaming thing, I don't know -- I love Apocalypse World and Fiasco anyway. But sometimes I am not sure about what modifications the new games intend to the social contract I'm used to.

So in the old days, when we had a lot of polyhedral dice instead of just 2d6, there was a lot of note-passing between the player and the GM. In the private pre-game backstory chat, there'd be, you know, "you look like a 2nd level cleric (or initiate of Yelmalio, whatever) but really you're a doppelganger (or ogre) here to kill the other party members". Things like that. So then you'd have a lot of note passing. "While everyone's asleep I try and steal the amulet." Good fun.

Apocalypse World has a whole different protocol for character creation -- everyone's in everyone else's business. Clearly the GM has some secrets, not just from the characters but also from the players -- the tension of Fronts comes partly from those countdown clocks being only gradually revealed, for instance. But the sense I get from the books is that a lot of the secrets between the characters are not secrets between the players. "So which character are you in love with?" "That's easy, Keeler". "Does Keeler know it?" "Oh no fucking way." Keeler's player is sitting right there, grinning.

The note-passing thing was, I take it, all about encouraging Actor stance -- close identification with the character. "Don't tell me anything my character doesn't know -- you're distracting me!" (Which my blurry and limited catch-up reading of RPG theory suggests is a Right To Dream thing, mainly?) A lot of AW seems to happen in Author and Director stance. "Oh cool, that will TOTALLY fuck with my character when she finds out!"

AW gives a bunch of directions which I take as telling me to not hide too much from the players. Things like tell what honesty demands, be generous with information, even the idea of NPCs with simple -- which implies obvious -- motives. Having the game be about the PCs' plans and actions and not about puzzling out the NPCs, right?

What about secrets between players? Is it just not the focus of the rulebook examples, or is it actively Considered Harmful? Is the idea just to broaden the range of stances and techniques, or is it really to encourage "open" and discourage "closed" play?

Let's say the rival hardholder wants to recruit one of the PCs as his spy. Is it encouraged to do this right out in front of the other players, because it's part of the Story they're all Now-ing together? Or is it cool to have a whole subterranean story of backchannel negotiations in intersession email and note-passing that only erupts later into the Big Reveal when one character springs a surprise on the others?

I'm not worried about the social contract itself, mind you -- I'm reasonably confident that the other players will be delighted with the surprise. But I do want to play the game the way it was intended, not just to lazily drift back into old habits.


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