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Messages - Daniel Wood

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Also, please don't misunderstand this as my Only True Take on the Skinner -- I'm just elaborating on this one specific angle, that I have found fruitful as an MC in games with Skinners. Every NPC doesn't have to treat the Skinner like an unreal projection of their own hopes and desires -- but some of them probably should. Some of them should probably gush and fall on their knees and promise everything and make huge unnecessary sacrifices that make things really awkward and even awful for the Skinner. That highly unusual form of AW awful where someone is trying to be way nicer to you than you particularly deserve.

I'm wary of the whole celebrity thing. Skinners aren't celebrities, they don't have reputation inherently or anything.

Yeah, the celebrity analogy requires some clarification: it's not the 'famous' part, the reputation part, that I think is a useful touchstone. It's the fandom part; it's how people react to and interact with celebrities. A Skinner's reach is much, much smaller, but the way people react is still distorted in a similar way because of the Skinner's symbolic place in the world, and because of what their actual moves do.

Once someone has seen the Skinner perform, or been in their presence, they stop being an actual person in the same way celebrities qua celebrity are not actual people to their fans. This doesn't happen to literally everyone who interacts with the Skinner, of course -- but at a minimum it happens to almost anyone they use Hypnotic or Artful & Gracious around. And ultimately this distortion is not completely under the Skinner's control, in a way that I think is similar to contemporary celebrity. (And it doesn't make the connections or emotions involved false, either. Someone who loves Beyoncé because her music comforts them and her public persona is aspirational to them -- those aren't unreal things, and they're the result of genuine beauty and actions that Beyoncé genuinely undertakes. But they're still different things than admiration for your friend who you see every day.)

Sure, you can imagine a completely socially benign Skinner but Hypnotic is not really a move about the free exchange of beauty and agency, except in the most precarious of fictional circumstances. A player who is interested in playing a Skinner with benign beauty in mind is going to have a very ambivalent experience -- and that's really what I wanted to point out, bringing up this celebrity comparison. Like the Hocus, the Skinner has an intensely personal charisma, and even if they try to wield it fruitfully and generously -- the Apocalypse is going to get its bloody fingerprints all over that, and they're going to steamroll over people, and people are going to do crazy things in the name of their beauty. And dealing with that is, I think, an often-overlooked part of the Skinner -- whereas for the Hocus it tends to be pretty front and center.

That's not how Apocalypse World is for everyone else. You are a magnet, you are unique

And, unless you are a megalomaniac or a primadonna, you probably realise how incredibly unfair that is. This is one of the ways that I find the 'celebrity' analogue helpful -- not everything people decide to do for famous people is something the famous people actually want, or actually think they deserve. Hypnotize is not in-brain puppet strings -- you don't give people concrete suggestions, you just make them spontaneously do something they think you want. One of my favourite things to do when running for a Skinner is to have people try to give things to the Skinner that either the Skinner doesn't particularly want, OR that the NPC in question very clearly needs much more than the Skinner. Like, the coat off their back, or their personal agency, or whatever. They do this whether or not the Skinner asks -- and if the Skinner does ask, you can bet it's going to be even more awkward.

Because one of the things about the Skinner living by a different set of rules is that it sets them apart, whether they wanted it to or not. It makes people unreasonable about them -- unreasonable and unpredictable. And while the PC themselves might be comfortable with this dynamic, in my experience the player may often be (or become) much more ambivalent, the more they realise how strangely easy certain things happen for them.

I mean, personally I look at the Skinner and I think 'I want to BE that' -- much like the Battlebabe. Being the hottest person around, or just having a legitimate claim to artistic beauty, is no small possession -- regardless of what you decide to do with it.

In any case, I have never played a Skinner, though I have run many games with Skinners in them -- but one of my favourite 'take a move from another playbook' PCs involved a Skinner move. I was playing a Savvyhead in a fairly classic desert wasteland, albeit one with inverted hundred-story Arcologies buried in the sand. In any case, my Savvyhead's main technological interest was gardening; his workshop was a secret garden, kept secret because the Hardhold in question had a rigid caste structure, and only Farmers were allowed to grow food (he was, naturally, in the Mechanic caste.)

Anyways, having planned to do so pretty much from the beginning, after several advances I took the move Artful & Gracious from the Skinner playbook. 'When you perform your chosen art... or put its product before an audience' -- other NPCs may have grown food, in some technical sense, but his garden produced food so beautiful that it made people weep to see it, or kill to eat it again. And part of what I loved about taking the move was that it allowed me to make a statement about the world, too -- that this was a place where eating an honest-to-god freshly grown tomato was enough to make somebody fall in love with the person who grew it. That nobody, up until now, had actually experienced real food -- or understood its value. Like Ebok said: by taking this move, I made this TRUE -- that I also made it mine was almost of secondary importance.

When you play the Skinner, you get to choose one thing whose beauty is undeniable. It may be true that not every NPC will 'appreciate' the Skinner's art, but every NPC understands on some level that it is real, and that its beauty has power. Some NPCs might not react well to that realization, they might try to pretend its not true or lash out at those who say otherwise -- but they can't help but react, because in their hearts they know.

It's interesting that the character whose power is (to me) most contemporarily recognizable is harder for you to understand. It's not a perfect analogy, but the Skinner is basically the closest thing to a cultural celebrity the post-apocalypse has. People who meet them up close fall head over heels trying to do what they think they want; even people who see them perform from a distance fall in love with them, want to be them or have them or help them. Whether you imagine this to be cynical -- the result of actual hypnotism or unearned personal charisma -- or because of their legitimate role as a guardian of beauty in the world, the power seems very obvious. It's the power an object of adoration has over those who adore them.

You can imagine the Skinner's power on a continuum with the Chopper, the Hardholder, the Hocus and the Brainer. People die for the Chopper because otherwise the Chopper will kill them; they die for the Hardholder because they rely on her for stability; they die for the Hocus because of what he has taught them to believe; they die for the Brainer against their own will. But they die for the Skinner because they love them, personally, for what they represent as an individual. Of all of the reasons this one seems to me the easiest to understand.

In a lot of ways the Skinner seems like an analogue to the Battlebabe, in that they both possess outsized individual influence, without the same need for a supporting social structure. As the Battlebabe and Gunlugger are to the Hardholder or Chopper, so are the Skinner and Brainer to the Hocus or Source. The Skinner requires people, certainly, but those people don't need to be organized -- in fact, the less organized they are, the more likely they will give up everything for a moment of beauty, or take rash action on the Skinner's behalf.

I mean, saying the Skinner has indirect power... did they take Hypnotize out of 2nd edition or something? Does artful and gracious no longer allow you to literally declare people in love with you? How is this more indirect than the Chopper bullying their gang, or the Brainer trying to implant psychic commands? It's certainly more indirect than PCs who take action themselves (i.e. Battlebabe, Gunlugger), but most playbooks have a great deal of their power vested in other people. But much like the Brainer, the Skinner gets to pick and choose from all the people -- even other people's people.

Anyone the Skinner meets is theirs, if they want them to be -- and unlike the Brainer, they aren't going to get hunted down and burnt at the stake if things backfire, because there's nothing unnatural about falling in love with beautiful people, who do beautiful things.

Apocalypse World / Re: Apocalypse World, Play By Post?
« on: May 04, 2017, 12:44:45 AM »
Just do it by feel. In my experience, asynchronous online play often benefits from specific resets/breaks already -- activity tends to follow a surge/lull trend, and declaring a 'new session' is a good way to ensure that the lulls do not result in the inactivity-death of the game.

Apocalypse World / Re: Alternative Hack for AW2 Seize by Force
« on: March 23, 2017, 11:06:38 PM »

I'm not a fan, for what it's worth. PCs and NPCs have different kinds of agency in AW, and this move blurs that line too much for me. Sure, in a very particular case, I might interpret a miss on a move and 'turn the move back' in the hands of an NPC -- but as a general rule, I am not interested in having to make mechanical choices on behalf of my NPCs in this way.

Similarly, I am absolutely not interested in my NPCs being able to block access to a thing the PC is choosing to seize by force, and the fact that the PC can now do that on a miss is not enough of a problem to make me want to overturn that basic impulse. The PC's actions and the PC's choices drive the game, and I don't really see many advantages here, that make up for having that stop being true, even in a very specific circumstance like this. And once you remove the 'take definite hold' choice from the NPC's list, all you're left with is harm. Harm works so differently for PCs and NPCs that, again, trying to create some sort of symmetry in their choices regarding it seems like a mistake.

Apocalypse World / Re: What Honesty Demands and PC treachery
« on: March 13, 2017, 01:00:06 PM »
Yeah, personally I would just be like 'no, no invisible note passing, just say it out loud in front of everyone if you're doing it.' But I think Vincent's solution is a decent one, too.

Apocalypse World / Re: Springing custom moves
« on: March 09, 2017, 11:04:11 PM »

I feel like there was a thread about this not that long ago, but:

* If a certain kind of activity merits a custom move, that should be clear in the fiction; if you are worried you haven't had adequate time to make it clear in the fiction, there's certainly no harm in sharing that the move exists with your players.
* Whether you need to share the entire move with players, or just the trigger conditions, depends entirely on the fiction and the move in question. If it is commonly known what happens to people who 'go exploring in the swamps', then the players might as well see the move. If nobody has ever tried 'opening their brain about Dremmer' before, then I see no reason for the players to know in advance what the consequences might be. They should, however, know that something is up with Dremmer and the psychic maelstrom (see first bullet point.)
* Sometimes you want to let players know a custom move exists so that they are more likely to tailor their play towards it. Sometimes that's a bad idea.

So for your 'dance competition' move -- I would assume that if such a move exists, that means other gangs are already having dance competitions with each other, that this is a part of the setting and that anyone who pays attention to gang politics is aware of the general repercussions of an inter-gang dance battle. This move is a good candidate for total transparency.

However, if you just wrote the move but, in fact, this has never come up in the fiction at all, you should think about a) what that means and b) why you are writing the move. Sometimes you write a custom move because it's clear that something is going to happen, or is already happening regularly, and you want to model its particular consequences. But sometimes you write one because you thought of a cool thing that _could_ happen, maybe only once, almost like a cool plot twist or sudden reveal or whatever. In this case, the custom move is almost a sort of bait -- for yourself, and for the players. But don't just let the move sit there by itself -- it needs to come into the fiction, too, for the bait to be effective, and for the move to feel well-incorporated into the game, instead of a sort of arbitrary one-off (i.e. why are there rules for dance battles but not karaoke competitions?)

Apocalypse World / Re: PCs improving at different rates
« on: March 09, 2017, 10:35:59 PM »

Characters swapping into off-stat Playbooks is great -- why would you do anything about it other than enjoy the new perspective on that playbook? A 0-weird Brainer is so amazing and so amazingly different than a 2/3-weird Brainer, it's one of the delights of the apocalypse.

Apocalypse World / Re: 2nd Edition and Seize by Force (and similar moves)
« on: February 26, 2017, 02:55:17 AM »

Yeah, I think the fixation on the case of the 2 armour Gunlugger is kind of skewing the perspective, here -- especially since they're not missing the roll anyways, because they're the frickin' Gunlugger? I thought apotheon's appeal to the Be a Fan principle was spot on, for that example in particular.

Monsterhearts / Re: Migrating the "One Punch Man Death Spiral"
« on: February 23, 2017, 12:39:42 AM »

I mean, as you say, all of this can mostly be accomplished by simply calibrating your harm effects in a manner that seems reasonable to you and your fellow players. Conceptualizing it as adding a '0 harm' result seems solid -- after all, Lash Out Physically just says 'you cause them harm', and presumably the amount of harm is fictionally determined. There doesn't really appear to be any need to change the moves; just don't say something does 1 harm if it doesn't do 1 harm.

1 harm examples from the book include ramming someone with a car or pushing someone down a flight of stairs (though to be fair, they also include kicking someone in the groin.) I don't feel like it's really that far off from the world you are imagining.

Personally, I've never had this problem in the game, but in general my games don't tend to have a lot of low-level/incidental violence -- when violence does happen it is intense, and so people being mortally wounded easily has rarely seemed like a drawback. This is particularly true because the sort of default response to going to 4 harm is to enter your Darkest Self, which is something most players are excited about, so you really have to be taking a lot of harm (and doing so fairly regularly) before that sort of fictional switch starts to feel repetitive or forced. In my experience, the 'Darkest Self' reaction is especially appropriate for the sort of slow-accumulation-of-1-harm that you find frustrating -- where being kicked in the groin and thrown down some stairs and generally battered by the world may not lead naturally into 'and then you die!' it leads very naturally into 'and then you can't take it anymore and you become a monstrous Werewolf/evil Witch/hungry Ghoul' or whatever.

This contrasts with injuries that seem to fictionally justify the possibility of death, or at least serious bodily consequence -- when that kind of injury triggers 'death', the 'Darkest Self' out becomes less of a given, and other choices (including actually dying) naturally become more likely.

That said, I can see how the Harm track actually secretly being a 'trigger your Darkest Self eventually' countdown clock as well as a 'maybe you could die now if you want' measurement could be frustrating, especially in a game where violence is occurring more regularly.

Apocalypse World / Re: 2nd Edition and Seize by Force (and similar moves)
« on: February 21, 2017, 12:33:37 AM »

Weird. I mean, I was extrapolating based on it being moved from Basic Moves to Battle Moves; I don't have the 2nd edition text. It sounds like the shift is not to having Seize by Force be a less basic move, but instead to simply clarify that any time Seize by Force is used, it counts as a battle -- which used to be a call the MC and players would make, circumstantially.

Certainly the way I run 1st edition, someone can Seize something by Force without triggering 'at the beginning of a battle' moves -- not always, of course, but fairly often. So my assumption of Seize by Force moving out of the basic move set was that it was being de-emphasized as a go-to move. But based on that quote, it sounds like maybe that is the wrong assumption.

Apocalypse World / Re: Individuals as gangs (NTBFW) + gang size stacking
« on: February 20, 2017, 05:45:40 AM »

It could be that I just didn't remember that Leadership had specific instructions on a miss (I haven't been in a game with a Hardholder in it ages); I seem to have misplaced by rulebook, so can't look it up. If the move specifically says that consequences are delayed, then that's certainly how it works.

Apocalypse World / Re: 2nd Edition and Seize by Force (and similar moves)
« on: February 18, 2017, 01:39:07 AM »

I mean, the question was about what the rules said, and moreover people's experience with using the new rules.

I think in practice it's a relatively fine distinction, because regardless of whether you are making a super ultra hard move, you are still probably making some kind of move -- because it is after all your turn in the conversation at that point.

An argument in favour could be something like: the purpose of the battle moves is for situations where you are narrowing the scope to focus on more moment-to-moment tactical interactions, and therefore it is less appropriate to pile on hard moves on every miss, because there is going to be a much higher density of rolls to fictional scope than usual. By moving Seize by Force into the non-Basic moves, the game is also removing it from the list of wider-scope moves, and so interpreting it as though it were still a basic move, just like in the previous edition, is not appropriate. The move may have the same name, but it has a narrower function, and you should make sure you are reading and applying the rule in its new context, instead of glossing over the consequences of the change.

This of course dovetails fairly well with what I said above about it still being your turn to say something, and a natural approach to the scope of the fiction at that point is already probably going to produce less sweeping consequences for the miss.

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