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Topics - Arvid

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Trying to grok the Skinner deeper, feel free to help me:

1) I find it a bit tricky to glean the effectiveness ( of the Skinner. All the other playbooks strike me as very clear in how they have power in the world: The Hardholder, The Chopper and the Hocus has power because they can order people around. The Gunlugger and Faceless has the power of violence. The Battlebabe has the power of starting any shit they like and come out on top. The Brainer can mind control. The Driver can go places. The Savvyhead can make anything they like, basically. Etc. From the very start, all these things provide pretty clear and direct a) motivation and direction b) ways to influence the world c) threats that ties into their stuff and/or motivations.

I don't see that to same extent with the Skinner. The Skinner instead has the indirect power to get other people to do something for them.

I think the answer is that the Skinner's a) motivation and direction b) ways to influence the world and c) threats to their stuff and motivations need to become clear in the first session, by introducing the NPCs. Since the NPCs is what are the Skinner's Crap/Stuff. And the Skinner player needs to play boldly to make the most powerful NPCs dependent on them.

Another way I can see for the Skinner to work is if the MC ask the player "What do you have that is so beautiful that everyone wants it? Your music, your voice, your body, the tattoos that you make?" And then make it a truth in the world that this is one of the few unspoilt things of true beauty, that everyone wants. So it's a leverage on basically everyone when rolling to seduce/manipulate.

I'm sure that for another breed of player, the appeal and power of Skinner is obvious, but to me it's a little bit of a mystery. Which brings me to:

2) What are your experiences when playing as a Skinner. In what moments did you feel powerful and cool? In what moments didn't you? Did you feel like your Skinner needed to be sexy? Do the Skinner have to have something that's unspoilt beauty (see above) or can it just be that "sex sells", even if it's as broken and hollow as everything else?

What was your Skinner like?

Question 1:
The way I understand it in 2nd ed:
The hardholder can amass more and more barter for every wealth roll, unlike 1st ed.
When somebody is doing gigs for a hardhold, the hardholder has to pay from "his" stack of surplus barter.

Question 2:
Can you Manipulate over long distances with one-way radio? Like "Hey, Mister Barker! Stop dumping your waste upstreams, or I will start killing your relatives!"

Apocalypse World / Do you want the Facebook AW/DitV pages?
« on: May 07, 2015, 12:03:01 PM »

I started Facebook pages for Apocalypse World and Dogs in the Vineyard, so I could like them.

I haven't done anything with them save for a few updates years back.

Maybe someone else would like to admin them and do something interesting with them? Just let me know, and I'll add you as admin.

Bye! ^^

Apocalypse World / Playbook focus: The Chopper
« on: October 01, 2013, 12:57:19 PM »

Apocalypse World is all scarcity, of course it is. There’s not enough
wholesome food, not enough untainted water, not enough security, not
enough light, not enough electricity, not enough children, not enough hope.

However, the Golden Age Past did leave us two things: enough gasoline,
enough bullets. Come the end, I guess the fuckers didn’t need them like they
thought they would.

So chopper, there you are. Enough for you.

The Chopper is the pack alpha of a motorcycle gang, making them violent, mobile and part of a close-knit group of kinspeople. They are a primarily Hard character, and they're also always Cool. To retain their power they have to manage their gang and it's impulses, making the gang both their biggest asset and their biggest trouble.

My take on it
Attila the Hun was the scourge of God. Genghis Khan created the largest land empire in human history. Sonny Barger and the Hells Angels rode counterculture into the heart of a nation and scared it shitless. There'll always be those that have and those who are strong and fast and ferocious enough to take. That's your legacy, Chopper!

Bikers are awesome. I always save the best for last.

Rawwwr, rawwwr, rawwwr!

I'm sorry, I was just making motorbike sounds. What is so awesome about the Chopper, you ask? Just look at the picture! Look at that beard! That some pre-apocalypse viking shit. The Chopper is born out of hardship and the survival of the strong, like an ancient force of nature, like a hurricane blowing in from the sea to fuck your shit up.

Riding a chopper is like riding the leviathan. I'm not just talking about the bike, a powerful beast in itself, but the gang that follows you; A ferocious creature that will tear any threat to itself apart, and who might turn against you at any moment if it percieves you as a threat or a prey rather than the pack alpha. Rawwwr rawwwr rawwwr is the sound it makes.

See, your pack is impulsive, always ready to spring into violence to neutralise and subjugate any threats to their safety or to their status, whether they be real or imagined. Packs work that way, by acting on instinct. In our day, we would call it by name of personality disorder; narcissistc, antisocial, borderline or paranoid, but in the post apocalypse, it can be a great way to survive, because when acting on instinct, you act immediatly, ferociously and without hesitation.

Packs have a hierarchy, which is a great way to eliminate hesitation. You are the strongest one. You have the least hesitation to bring me down if I challenge you. Good, then you are obviously the leader. It also means, of course, that you can't take shit from any out of pack bitches touching your bike the wrong way. Put them back in line quickly and ruthless to reassert status in the pack. Respect few, fear none. Build a reputation so everyone knows.

But of course there is more to the pack than that. You and your gang ride together, face hardship together, eat together, sleep together. This is a group of people united by something in a way that's outdated and rare in modern life and maybe even more so in Apocalypse World. This is also a part of what makes the Chopper into a primordial being. At the dawn of man, we all lived in nomadic tribes, lived all hours of the day surrounded by the same people, depended on them for survival in a world where people didn't die from cancer, but from violence, predators, dehydration and famine.

These people are your world, your family, even your power in the game, but they are also the fucking jackals that will tear you apart if you show any weakness. Truly, hell is other people.

When I played a Chopper, after the game was over, the MC told me that he never got any chances to make me roll for pack alpha after a while, because I became so in tune with my role as a leader that I anticipated anything that could challenge my authority, anticipated anything that could lead to the disdain of my gang, and asserted it right there and then. That's the best way to play a Chopper I think. The best Chopper never even rolls pack alpha, and here I would like to refer back to paragraphs on The Zen of Apocalypse world in the Hardholder and Battlebabe focus: You ony roll when there is resistance. (Or ”say yes or roll dice” as the principle was in Dogs in the Vineyard) Use that.

On the other hand, I felt like a total bitch for always trying to please my gang. Even though I considered ol' Deadeyes the most moral and least psychopathic of the bunch, trying to keep them on the right track, I also noticed how sensitive I became to what would stir the gang the wrong way, like I aggroed on any character that made me look not in charge. Yeah, that's pack mentality.

The playbooks makes out the Gunlugger as the obvious one, but to me the Chopper is the most obvious playbook: Get food to eat and loot to please your gang. Use your gang for threats from without. Use your status for threats from within. Ride hard. After all, there are no day jobs in Apocalypse World, and if you want to survive you've got to use the things you have going for you, as the Chopper fluff text so astutely makes out.

Watching Breaking Bad as I'm writing this, great example of an ordinary guy whose options have narrowed down and now it's down to to dying, losing your pride or using the assets you have, even if it's ugly. Speaking of series, Sons of anarchy is what really sold me on the Chopper. And it is also what sold me on getting Moonlighting for the Chopper.

Sorry, it's really hard to find clips from that show, fan tributes is the best I can get.

Why the Chopper is the best playbook to play:
Rawwwr, rawwwr, rawwwr!

And if anyone comes up to you and tell you that you're not the best playbook, you put them in their place.

What it brings to the world of the apocalypse:
A family of sorts, or at least band of brothers. A dragon everyone else has to relate to. A sense of history and legacy. One thing I considered doing was making a really tribal pack of bikers with strong traditions and rituals, one step beyond the lingo and rituals of modern bikers.

Fundamental scarcities of the playbook:
The MC should prepare by reading the about the Pack alpha move (see below) and decide whether to use it as written or in a more narrative fashion, and if so, exactly how hard a move it should be. Like, how nasty of a threat is the Choppers own gang, exactly? And also make sure to make the gang into interesting individuals with real motivations, so he can play out their reaction to things right, i. e., when to roll pack alpha.

Moves and crap analysis:
As MC, make sure you read the more in-depth explanation of Pack alpha and Fucking thieves on page 221. Pack alpha can be a little cryptic, but this lays it out super clear and operationalised. Fucking thieves plays well on the impulse for retaliation that I've outlied above.

Even more so than other playbooks, A no shit driver is a given, although your bike is only power+1 looks+1 weakness+1. Daredevil too, of course, if your gang counts as a ”convoy”, or Rasputin, basically the same deal.

Moonlighting is also a great choice, you can get both Moonlighting and a holding with Wealth as an improvement, so there is definitely a possibility for you to go boss over the local operations. And why not get Leadership to get some war discipline into your pack?

Juggernaut and Bloodcrazed goes well with playing you up as a force of nature in combat, and I really like Dangerous and sexy for those ends too.

Your weird is -1. If you really care for your gang, maybe try out Touched by death? Then you're inviting your MC to fuck your loved ones up, of course. Batte-hardened is another possible solution.

Relationships and dynamics:
So, a Chopper, a Hocus and a Brainer walk into a Lady Gaga video... Ever since I saw this video, I've wanted to make a Chopper and a Hocus team-up where the gang is also the cult.

Make sure to ask every PC if they are a part of your gang at character creation, and try to get at least one to join up! Makes the Pack alpha move so much more interesting. I could potentially see any playbook be a part of your gang, save for the Hardholder and the stranger ones of the limited edition playbooks. The less expected the more interesting!

Good questions to ask the Chopper to make their dirty life on the road seem real: Tell me about your bike. Tell me what part of it makes it unique. What is the best day like for you, and what is the worst day like? What is your favorite food, and what is your least favorite?

Good questions to ask the Chopper to make their gang interesting: What signs, marks or costume do your gang wear? What traditions do your gang have? What is your meetings or parties like? When did you become pack alpha? What's the worst thing you've done for your gang? Whats the worst thing you've done to your gang? What's the best thing?

And there is also a facet of tenderness to the Chopper, what with them actually having sort of a family. Just look at their Chopper special. So: Tell me about your relationship with a PC or NPC that the gang does not approve with. What's the most loving and loyal thing someone in the gang has done for you? Whom in your gang do you have tender emotions for? Did you sleep with them?

The Hardholder with their gang and the Gunlugger, perhaps with NOT TO BE FUCKED WITH are the real tough threats to go up against. I played a game with a rather satisfying cold war going on between the Gunlugger and the Chopper. They both had the means to exterminate the other, but everyone knew it would be very, very ugly, which built great tension.

Save for the Hardholder and Gunlugger, the Battlebabe, the Quarantine or the Operator is probably your best bet for an adversary, seeing has they have the Cool to evade or ambush your gang and the attitude to do it.

The Operator is also a good contact for fixing things you need but do not have the skills or contacts to get (except maybe if you get Moonlighting yourself.), or to get some scratch through by doing jobs for them.

As the only other mobility-based playbook, The Driver could be a rival, or a good contact, or a part of your gang. Think of the road as a theatrical stage that the two of you share in a special way.

The Skinner and the Maestro 'D also deals with status and social power, but in a different way than you. The establishment of the Maestro 'D could be the most interesting scene for your gang, seeing it is not primarily a place of laws and daily living, like the hardhold, but of party and pleasure. What biker gang doesn't have a hangout? Do they go there to take the edge off, or maybe to start fights?

In your relationship to the Savvyhead, think of themes such as engines and machine worship, to carefully build and to recklessly destroy, mobility and stationarity. A Savvyhead with Bonefeel is a character that can meet up with you even when you're in the wasteland, which is a good thing. Same with a Faceless, for whom it makes sense to roam the wasteland, and especially if they have Scent of Blood. Good candidates for strong, ambivalent relationships.

The Brainer is the Thulsa Doom to your Conan. As you know, only steel can you trust.

Ask the Touchstone if they want to a part of your gang!

If there is a Hoarder, point to them whenever the Chopper misses his Fucking thieves roll.

The Playbook Focus articles will return in the future! Next season, we'll take look at the LE playbooks and some special articles.


Apocalypse World / Playbook focus: The Angel
« on: September 19, 2013, 08:01:05 AM »

When you’re lying in the dust of Apocalypse World guts aspilled, for whom
do you pray? The gods? They’re long gone. Your beloved comrades? Fuckers
all, or you wouldn’t be here to begin with. Your precious old mother? She’s
a darling but she can’t put an intestine back inside so it’ll stay. No you pray
for some grinning kid or veteran or just someone with a heartshocker and
a hand with sutures and a 6-pack of morphine. And when that someone
comes, that’s an angel.

The Angel is a post-apocalyptic medic with access to golden age medical equipment able to revive even DOA's. As other characters is depending on him to treat his injuries, he has a chance to see them at their most vulnerable. He is a primarily Sharp character, with a claim to Hard, a good Cool and a low Weird, (or vice versa if you'd prefer.)

My take on it

Being an Angel sucks. On a fictional level, you are trying to care for people in a world without resources, without social security and satuated with violence and brutality. That's as it should be. On a game level, you aren't really given tools to act proactively in the world. That's a problem that should be adressed.

I could make a case for every playbook being the most powerful one when playing on their strengths, but not the Angel. His strength is caring for the sick, that can't really be played on. It solves exactly one problem: Sick people. You can't really use that for power, you can't use it to blackmail, mind-control or conquer.

Hey, wait, that's the key, isn't it? That's why they call you the Angel. You're not into the power play. You still have the faith or dedication or empathy to dedicate yourself to caring for others.

If anything the Angel has taught me to find and focus on the importance and challenges of every playbook. So, the Angel can't be a power player in the story about who will control the valley, but he can be the spotlight on a different level, like a hero in hospital drama, yeah? So make that as important, interesting and challenging as the politics and feuds of apocalypse world.

Create compelling relationships that Angel care about, that motivate him to action, to help those in need. Create challenges that the Angel can work proactively on, like battling the stagnant water supply, the nanobot disease, the cheap Hardholder or the Chopper raiding caravans of medical supplies. Create resources that makes the Angel cool and helps him to work proactively, like authority over people working for him, the respect and service of the general populace, and strong NPCs who owe him a big one for saving their lives.

For a good example on how to do this, take a look at The Sunken Sydney one-shot scenario, where we basically set up the Angel as the hero, with skills highly relevant to the scenario, their own boat and potentially an infirmary from the start. The Infirmary move is almost mandatory if the Angel is to build a story on his endeavour to fight a large scale health problem. Consider giving it to the player for free. Make it your objective as an MC that the Angel should have his hands full with shit that feels relevant and important, not just when someone has been shot.

I really envision the Angel as standing up for the little man, the local community, taking a stake and getting involved in the fate of people around him.

And there is one thing that the you get as the Angel, and no-one else: You get to save other characters' lives, care for them when they're the most vulnerable, get to know a side of them that no-one else will.

What if you'd like to play a cruel, power-hungry or generally fucked-up Angel? Of course you could, but that would mean you'd lose your most important strengths: The respect, the trust, the close relationships, that good feeling in your gut for doing something good and important.
Angel – It's a thankless job!

About that feeling: I work in public health, which can be a lot of stress and frustation. Now imagine doing it in the post-apocalypse! But whether you're stressing over underfunding under a capricous hospital board, or stressing over having to do surgery with eating utensils for Fuckface the psycho Hardholder, there is still meaning to what yo do. Deep down, you know you're right, and that they are wrong. You know you're doing what's right, and damnit, you'll get it done. Not for Fuckface, but for the patient.

Why the Angel is the best playbook to play:
You get to be the good guy. You get to have the moral high ground.

What it brings to the world of the apocalypse:
Humanity, morality. A moral touchstone, if you wish to, for everyone else. And with the Angel in play, other characters' wounds has to be cared for by a PC with agency rather than an NPC among many.

Fundamental scarcities of the playbook:
To reiterate: Give the Angel social influence so he can be proactive. Give the Angel possibilities so he can be proactive. One thing you could do is to give the Angel a little imaginary workspace, so you ask the Angel what he wants to do, and the Angel tells you that he wants to make ground water drinkable, so you answer ”Okay, but you'll need some time to examine the bacteria, you need 4-barter worth of material, and you'll need Rex to help you” See my focus article on the Savvyhead why the workspace is so great.

Try out the Bond for Apocalypse World rules, they're better than the original Hx rules, and they give a more powerful boon for medical care – By the end of the campaign, the Angel could have a permanent +3Hx with everyone.  And while I'm linking to house rules, check out these visceral harm rules.

Moves and crap analysis:
Did you know that the Angel has two +1hard improvements? A +2hard really helps driving through with that righteous ambition to protect the downtrodden and save the injured.

Healing touch and Touched by death is an interesting combo for a -1weird angel. Vincent writes he makes it his personal mission to bring an Angel with healing touch to +2weird. Sound advice. Touched by death is really cool that way, in that it is huge flag asking the MC to lay the death and the drama upon you. And once you're at +1weird or +2weird, a whole new batch of moves open up to you, Visions of Death in particular sticks out to me.

Sixth sense and Battlefield grace are good to help the Angel function in the world, but not very exciting to talk about. Professional compassion has a cool name, but I'd rather use the Bonds rues and get the Angel to high Hx/Bonds with everyone else instead.

Moonlighting is available to you as an improvement. Great way to get more involved with the community!

If you have an ambulance, stuff those medical supplies in the trunk and get Daredevil and A no shit driver. I think a car + A no shit driver should be in the list of improvements for the Angel.

Disciplined engagement is cool. Go aggro with +2hard, when they suck it up you can hit them for 1-harm and then ask again. Bonefeel is probably a lot more useful for a medic than a technician. Scent of blood is a possibility for a die-hard medic. You dont have to be fighting just because you're at a battle, you know.

Visionary and Towering presence if you want to play up the Touchstone angle.

Just like the Gunlugger, the Angel might come more to its fullest potential as a second playbook for the character, rather than the first. You switch to the Gunlugger when you're desillusionised with kindness. You switch to the Angel when you're desillusionised with violence and power.

Relationships and dynamics:
Good questions to ask: Why are you an Angel? Who sets you up with your angel stock?  What do you absolutely have to fix right fucking now? Some questions to humanise and connect the Angel with people and the community, if that's the route you want to take: What is your secret fear? Who depend on you? Who do you depend on? What could you change for the better?

The Gunlugger and the Chopper might be your best customer, or at least a source of customers. Tension might ensue. The Chopper in particular, not only does his gang terrorize the landscape, they brutalize each other!

The Hardholder is an obvious boss, but try to avoid the simple boss-underling dynamic, make sure to preserve the Angel's independence and add some other important people in the hold, like the quartermaster and the gang lieutenant for a dynamic of ambitions.

Working for the Operator could be made more interesting and dynamic. The Savvyhead is a good match in that you could do some cool cross-discipline work, trying to improve or exploit the setting. And everything I wrote about the ambulance, yeah, you could just team up with the Driver instead. How is that for a game? Operator, Savvyhead, Driver and Angel!

The Skinner is also a playbook depending on social power, a game with a Skinner and Angel could potentially explore the nuances of that more deeply. The Maestro 'D can be a completely far out character, but can also work to ground the game more in reality, seeing as even our world has Maestro 'Ds and Angels, or rather bartenders and doctors.

The Brainer is a kind of anti-thesis, what with them being weird and exploitative. In one game, we actually had a kind Brainer with Healing touch, masquerading as a doctor. The Hoarder can also be a great nemesis, with great love for things but no love for people, if medical supplies is a part of the hoard it takes whatever rivalry or co-dependence there is up a notch. Could be real interesting, and elevate the story of the Angel and the Hoarder both.

The Touchstone is the paladin to your cleric. So I've painted the Angel as a moral touchstone throughout this article, but the Touchstone (released later) is explicitly the moral touchstone of Apocalypse World. However, I feel the Angel does that job in a more subtle and satisfying way. First of all, the Angel heals instead of fights, and second of all the Angel doesn't have powers that say ”I'm the morality”. It's a lot more humble. I wouldn't use both playbooks in the same game.


Apocalypse World / Playbook focus: The Savvyhead
« on: September 13, 2013, 01:27:47 PM »
Jesus, these things just keep getting bigger!

If there’s one fucking thing you can count on in Apocalypse World, it’s:
things break.

The Savvyhead is an inventor, a mad genius. His moves emphazise intuition and spookiness, and his defining feature is the workspace, which lets him potentially build, discover or engineer anything. His primary stat is Weird.

My take on it
First off, I love the workspace! It's almost like a little MC move and principles package in itself: Have the player tell you what they want, then offer an oppertunity and a cost for doing it. What is so awesome about the Savvyhead is that given time, he could potentially solve the apocalypse with his workspace – And I definitely feel he should give it a shot!

So, the first thing to do as a Savvyhead, unless something more urgent pops up, is to tell the MC ”I want to stop the acid rain” or ”I want to reverse the grey goo that's eating up our land” or ”I want to neutralize the technohound threat”, or ”I want to control the maelstrom” or what have you. The MC will tell you what you need to do, and it'll surely require risk, time, resources and intel or contacts, but hey – you're on your way to save the world.
History's greatest Savvyhead certainly tried to save the world.

Alternately, if utilitarism is not your thing, tell the MC ”I want to build a battlestation to take control of this sad ravine”, ”I want to make a maelstrom-based spy drone system to find out everyone's dirty secrets”, or ”I want to build an army and/or harem of cyberpuppets”
”They're my friends, I made them” indeed

If you want it, if you're ready to work and suffer for it, you've got it! Even weird imaginative stuff that we would never expect to work or even exist. ”Hey, just how does this work? Eh, it's Apocalypse World!”

Vincent writes to the MC (The characters' crap page 248) that for a too difficult project, you might as well say no, but I feel you should always say ”yes” to the Savvyhead's projects. Actually, you are not just saying ”yes”, but saying ”yes, and...” and then you add to the player's idea with interesting and challenging steps to completing the project – It's the ultimate improv device!

Remember that huge projects can have nested projects consisting of expanding one's workspace (page 249) or creating prototypes or confirming working hyptotheses, and if the Savvyhead has to enlist the help of other characters, that's just a boon.

All too often when MC'ing Apocalypse World one shots at conventions I see the Savvyhead picked by a player who wants to hang back, stay out of trouble and relate to things instead of people. You could take this for a feature rather than a bug, since it gives the slightly timid and nerdy player some space to play in. But if you're relying on all of your players to be proactive in the fiction it could be a problem, and for the Savvyhead concept to really get going, I think it should be played boldly.

That the Savvyhead invites safe solo play is no surprise though. First we have th Hx options, which basically says ”I'm weird, leave me alone”. Then there's the workspace. I mean, the Savvyhead is defined by the tech-cave or tech-mobile he is holed up in. So, make sure you ask about how the Savvy keeps her workspace working, how does he get food, water, tech, and security from tech-stealing scumbags? Who helps him? Of course the workspace in itself gives golden opportunities for this: Go get this thing from this person, go get this person to help you, etc.

And also ask about the tech-cave, have the player make it a magical and eerie and interesting place that other players love to visit with their characters . I'm talking Willy Wonka shit here, or maybe rather Alice's wonderland shit. There are lots of weird characters, but the Savvyhead is defined by their space, so make that space weird too. Just as the church of the Hocus can be a horrifying, serene or awesome (in the classical sense) place, the workspace of the Savvyhead should be something special.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. The Savvyhead blurs the line between technology and mysticism, which I feel is a brilliant take on it, and somewhat unique I think. It's hard to find this archetype in western media, most often it's the mad scientist stereotype; I had to go to anime to find my film clips for this article.

And it's not just the typical electricity and cogs, the Savvyhead transcends that shit and also deal with relics, organics and stuff of maelstrom. The line between mystic and scientist is irrelevant to the genius of the Savvyhead. All weird characters have a heavy say in what the maelstrom is, but the Savvyhead most of all. Presumably driven by curiosity and mastery, the Savvyhead actually has a bid to understand, systemize and control the maelstrom.

Don't we all feel alternately comforted and mystified by technology? Right now I'm sitting in a local coffee house, writing this. I look around me, and most people sitting here by themselves are immersed in the glow of their smartphones, tablets and laptops, safe in the lullabys of gizmos and the digital music flowing out of the establishment's speakers. I look at my laptop screen. It's busted, a screw is missing and a lever is off, but it's hold in place with a bent paper clip, a clothes peg and some duct tape. The place has free wifi, but trying to connect to it does nothing, my laptop just searches for the connection, fails, tries another wifi located a few hundred metres away, don't ask me why as I've already removed that network from the settings, and then starts anew to my befuddlement.

I think the Savvyhead holds a special place in our technology-satuated society of today. Technology can't love you back, but it can soothe you and you can make it do exactly what you want as long as you're smart enough. Not like unpredictable real persons. Merge with it, and you're omnipresent. It's like the psychoanalytic mother; let her womb embrace you.

Here's some real nice existentialism (or at least existentiobabble) wrapped in technology:
Did I just link to the entire Ghost in the Shell movie? Oh yes I did. It's all good. Yeah okay, except the robotic fanservice maybe, but I'm sure you can make some kind of maternity-technology-sexuality parable out of it.

Why the Savvyhead is the best playbook to play:
With a vision and the endurance to push it through, you can save the world, or anything else you want to do. You get to be a weird visionary genius and enslave the maelstrom with your genius. Sure, everyone can open their brain, but you're a scientist, in some weird way, and can apply methodology to map out, contain and control the maelstrom. You have a big say in defining and exploring it.

What it brings to the world of the apocalypse:
A possibility. A rabbit hole into the maelstrom and beyond the maelstrom. A rabbit hole which can be explored. A chance to redefine this miserable burnt-out world, or maybe escape it.

A space in the world that is not just measured in miles or kilometres, just as space is just a matter of ”eat me” and ”drink me” in Alice's wonderland. Yeah, that's what your workspace should be like, a rabbit hole open to you and the other players to discover the wonders and horrors of science-mysticism. Even the prosaic works of the Savvyhead, like creating a surviellance and defense system, a food production or a way to cross the acid lakes change the very world the characters live in and the conditions they have to deal with.

Fundamental scarcities of the playbook:
So, there's a real risk the rabbit stays in his hole, that needs to be either addressed or the game needs to adjust. The playbook doesn't really communicate the aggressive, visionary play that I advocate in this article, and maybe it's not intended to either. Either way, I believe the Savvyhead if anyone should be proactive and fired up about his projects, ready to take an active role in the world, place himself in the social web that is Apocalypse World and adventure/negotiate/swoon/steal his way to the components and help he needs.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, just like the Operator, the Savvyhead needs some time for his projects to pay off, so there needs to be a certain scale of time to the game. In that way I get what Vincent is saying about nixing to difficult projects, there's no fun in working on a single project that never ends. Roleplaying needs to have continous feedback to be fun and interesting, so have the Savvyhead complete or get new things or possibilities continuesly, MC letters are good tool for giving the Savvyhead new toys, possibilites and problems. And if they want to make a single thing for a specific purpose, like a spy-droid, maybe they can complete it in downtime or a single day, just let them choose between spending jingle, owing Rolfball one and making a perilous journey, summarize the effects and cut to the end result, kind of like Moonlighting.

One thing you could try is to really boost the Savvyhead's output of stuff to make them a power factor in themselves. Like, here is King Barnum of Salt Flats, there is the oracle Lost whom the Maelstrom God speaks through, and over there is Honeytree and her devotees, and then there is Ozair, the guy with the mecha war-spider that hatches tiny robot spiders that latch on to peoples' heads and mind-control them. Or Leah, the gal who uses a machine to teleport wherevere she likes and steal peoples things, or teleport into their head and steal there memories. Or Spector, the ambigously gendered person who purifies water, which gather people from miles around them. Just remember to keep their kind of power something different from the power base of other playbooks in play (so the war-spider is maybe a bad example, what with the Hardholder and Gunlugger having military power) and not make it to easy to create tech that solves all the problems. Tech that creates new problems is okay.

Moves and crap analysis:
The Savvyhead playbook is one my favorites when it comes to the moves, on par with the Brainer and Battlebabe.

Bonefeel is an absolutely wonderful move to get involved in stuff, and then there's Spooky intense which lets you roll Acting under fire with +weird which is fucking A. Both of these moves encourage a Savvyhead that gets out and gets into interesting situations, which I feel is great. Take Spooky intense and Deep insights at character creation, and you'll be acting under fire like a Battlebabe! Oftener right also encourage you to get involved with other characters. Thing's speak is also a great move, both in terms of driving home the point of your mystic weirdness and the sheer flexibility of stuff it let's you do with it. Reality's fraying edge lets you deal with the maelstrom, that's the key to wonderland.

The workspace I've already talked extensively about, so let's move on to other playbook moves.

A no shit driver and Daredevil are cool moves if you want to pilot your inventions. My other car is a tank, and then put the workspace in there, maybe? Acquisitive eye and Appraising eye are good for finding sweet tech. Brainer moves are also a cool direction to take to play up the weirdness. Infirmary is a given, if the MC doesn't rule that you can already do that with your workspace.

Maybe take the Hocus' Seeing souls and embrace it? Make a strong point of getting involved and invaluable in other people's business and trouble. Combos in a great way with Bonefeel! Here comes the Savvyhead to the aid again, out of nowhere, in just the right moment and with the right tool. Or vice versa, here comes the Savvyhead to fuck things up, out of nowhere, at just the wrong moment with the tools he needs... again! What a fucking asshole!

Relationships and dynamics:
Help the Savvyhead getting out and meeting people. Don't just make the Savvyhead realize how awesome they are, but make everyone else realize it as well so they want to enroll savvy in their schemes. One simple way to connect the Savvyhead to others is to have him supply something they need at the start of the game, like chemicals, drugs, technology, electricity, or the like. That's not very interesting in itself, but it's a good spring board for setting up scenes with other characters and making NPC-PC triangles. Maybe the Savvyhead at one point has to choose between supplying the Hardholder or his lover for instance.

Ask questions about the workspace. Keep them perceptual, grounded in the senses or in symboles to evoke imagery and make it a fascinating place. Like How does it smell? What does it sound like? What is it like to sleep there? What is the first thing that catches ones attention when one walk in there? If your home/workspace was a creature, what creature would it be, a cold slimy woodlouse or a jungle-feverish tiger?

Ask questions about other characters to connect them, try to mix up Savvyhead relationship with Savvyhead projects to raise the relevance of both. Who relies on you? Who disturbs your work on your projects? Who do you love/fear/envy? Who are you making a gift for? What is the gift? Who has something you consider yours? Who usually comes over to visit your workspace? Who have you stolen a thing from, and how do you feel about that?

The Driver and the Chopper rely on motors, so there is a great match. They can also make expeditions to the radiated lands for the tech scrounge you need.

The Angel also easily becomes a lone progressive force. One thing I think could be interesting is to team up the Savvyhead and the Angel and have them take up a common agenda in a fierce way. Both have the job of bringing things/people in and fixing them, sometimes these things overlap. MC, allow them to do really crazy interesting stuff if they put both their minds to it, and raise the stakes accordingly.

The Operator is a great match for you, being a part of their crew is not as overbearing as working for the Hardholder. If you are the Hardholder's vassal, make sure you are part of the Hardholder's court so there are some different ambitions going around there, and not just a single guy telling you what to do. The Operator is also a good partner for brokering deals and the like, speeding up the progress and profit of your projects during downtime.

The Brainer, Hoarder and Hocus are interesting matches. You apply control to weirdness, is that something they benefit from, or does it create animosity? (Anti-brainer gear!) I can totally see the Hoarder and Savvyhead bickering over gizmos and constantly stealing from each other, they are, like, the worst roomies evar

A Savvyhead with a vision benefits greatly from having a Battlebabe, Gunlugger, Touchstone or Operator to help them out.

The Skinner? That's an interesting one. I suppose the obvious choice would be to use their relationship to highlight the contrast of someone relating to people and someone relating to tech. In other words, to play through your own trauma of being a nerd in love with someone who is hot and amazing. Yay!

In our last game, the Savvyhead and the Maestro 'D where mortal enemies, with the savvy representing progress and the maestro representing decadence. You could easily switch that around, if the Maestro 'D is feeding the poor and the Savvyhead is building doomsday devices and killer drones. Or put them in the same place for an establishment of engineered drugs and cyber-dreams. And then you start implanting mind commands in the addicted customers. I can only see great things coming from this!

Savvyhead + Quarantine? Game Over, you won, I guess.

Savvyhead vs Quarantine? That's really interesting! Like, the Savvyhead wants to get his hands on the Quarantines ancient technology for his own ends, the Quarantine uses his military abilities to resist. Let's say the Quarantine gets Followers, well-armed ones and the Savvyhead is a powerhungry sunnovabitch with the know-how for domination, the next thing you know you got killer drones and laser beams against guys in modern infantry armor and assault rifles, fighting for territory. Awesome.

Okay, this is silly and I don't know where to put it, but I want to include it, so:

Apocalypse World / Playbook focus season 2, and what about the Skinner?
« on: September 09, 2013, 06:35:11 PM »
After a little bump in productivity, I'm looking to finish of this series of focus articles with the Savvyhead, the Angel and the Chopper, and then return later with limited edition playbooks and three little special articles.

But what about the Skinner? I've never actually had a chance to grokk them, so I don't feel I have enough to write about them. Here's to hoping that someone will pick the Skinner in our next game that starts on sunday - If someone does, I'll make sure to collect enough experience to write about it. In the meantime, if anyone would like to share their thoughts on the Skinner, here or through private messages, that's very welcome!

Apocalypse World / Playbook focus: The Operator
« on: August 28, 2013, 07:04:36 PM »

In Apocalypse World, here’s what you’ve got, right? You’ve got Dremmer
and Balls on one side, warlord slaver and his skinny fucking enforcer,
raiding from their stronghold of concrete and iron spikes. On the other side
you’ve got the barge people, living their short disease-crippled lives up and
down the dead poisoned river. Further along and you’ve got Lighthouse, a
men-and-women hunger cult gone wrong barricaded in on the edge of the
breeding pit burn flats.

You, you just want to make your way and have some freedom — but this is
what you’ve got to work with. Not fucking rosy.

The Operator is a dealer, schemer, fixer, boss, worker, operator. She juggles gigs for jingle and surrounds herself with a crew or a net of contacts for this purpose. The Operator is not a strong in concept, moves or gear as other playbooks, but is a master in amassing barter, or at least will be if you're willing to work the game a little. Her primary stat is Cool which helps her deal with sticky situations. These situations tends to come up.
Mal from Firefly

My take on it
For the longest time, I did not get the Operator. Other playbooks jump at me with their style, their moves and their crap, but what makes the Operator awesome and compelling is not at all as clear. When examining the playbook for this series of focus articles, I looked to the space on the back flap, you know, beneath the fluff text where peripheral rules relevant to the playbook is printed. Anyway, the Operator has the barter peripheral rules printed in this space, and that was when I grokked it.

The Operator is all about the barter. To give the Operator style and substance, you need to give barter style and weight. Let me go on a tangent about that:

The scarcity of Apocalypse World
Make Apocalypse World an uncomfortable place, and scarcity a real thing in the post-apocalypse. Ask the characters what their greatest scarcities are (for instance food, clean water, ammo, gas, protection from people trying to rob them of above mentioned) and make moves on that. Frame scenes like this one, when the fiction calls for it: “You wake up and your stomach hurts for not having eaten for two days. What do you do?”

With 0-barter, you’ll starve within the month. 1-barter, you’ll live, maybe not comfortably though and with no margin of security. Maintenance, repairs, ammo or gas? That’s going to need barter too. Unexpected shit always come up. I don’t think anyone of us reading these articles have been in real  danger of starvation, but I’m sure most of us has been at a point in our lives with no real financial buffert or margin, where dough is just enough to pull through the month, but all of a sudden something needs replacing or repairing or medical attention, and that is just the shit. So yeah, also have things go wrong for the characters, have things get stolen or need repair, have shit happen to people they care about and they could really use a barter worth of clean water right fucking now. Remember the move “Make them pay”! Make it so that when the characters have 1 or 2-barter to spare, they feel really good about it.

Also, if you turn barter into essential for survival, you also turn barter into power, power to get people to do things for you. Offer people barter, and you offer them life. People will dirty or dangerous things for survival, or just straight up desire you and kiss up to you if you’re sitting on a pile of jingle.

In short, make the players desire barter for their survival and safety, for the survival and safety of their loved ones, and for the luxe and envy and desire that will come their way when they have mucho jingle.

What emerges from this is an Operator who quickly realises that cash is king, and who quickly gets a higher juggling and start juggling risky but well-paying jobs to get to where they want. Given that is their reaction, that says a lot about the Operator as a person: Determined for barter, she is a person who is ready to get herself into complicated situations and juggle them by the handfuls. But for the Operator to really shine, I think you have to be generous with her.

Moonlighting is a really cool move in that it instantly sets you up with interesting situations and lets you step in when the interesting stuff happens - Not the preparation, but the climax or the aftermath. I recommend being generous with what you can do with Moonlighting. When the Operator starts off she works maybe a 1-barter or 2-barter gig plus one operation gig, and while I presume her crew/contacts gets the majority of their pay from the client, they also want a piece of the Operator's personal barter. (Check the Operator's paragraph on what 1-barter covers). You could also be flexible with what Moonlighting lets you do, let them choose ad hoc gigs with effects rather than barter payoff, such as “get intel on Dremmers stronghold (you get information / your crew is caught in the act)” or “find and waste Ramen (you corner Ramen / Ramen corners you)" as long as they pay the barter their crew or contacts is asking for for working on it. That's a cool feature that makes the Operator capable of handling any situation given help from their crew and contacts and time to plan and prepare, which I feel is totally in line with the playbook concept. And remember, Moonlighting is more effective the more downtime there is in the game. For Moonlighting to really work, the game needs to take place over months rather than days, fictionally, and you need to be generous on how often there's a little downtime so the Operator can make those rolls - You could let the crew do most of the work off-camera if the Operator really can't get her hands free.

And I’d recommend being generous with what the crew and contacts are good for. The rules says you should describe everyone individually with one line of description, and also consider them threats. I say go one step longer: The crew and contacts are the Operator’s crap, so I think it should carry the same weight in the story as the Savvyhead’s workspace or the Hardholder’s hold. Make the crew/contacts real, proactive people, not as interesting and effective as player characters, but just one notch below! Have them save the Operators poor ass sometimes. Have them go behind her back sometimes. Have them approach the Operator with opportunities, things like ”I found this goon in our camp, staking us out for the Hardholder no doubt. What do you want me to do with him?” or “Hey, I heard that weirdo Lucas is boarded up in the tower ruin with a fuckton of barter. You want to go take it? If you want to, I could make a map out of the other ruin and it should map out his place as well”
I love it when a plan comes together

And be generous with what things she can get when she go(es) into a holding's bustling market[/i] and when she make(s) known that you (she) want(s) a thing and drop jingle to speed it on it's way[/i]. Maybe she can get intel or new contacts as well as things, such as someone can hook her up with the right guy or a map to where the high tech device can be find. Make it clear that with enough barter you can get anything available in this world, kind of how the Savvyhead can get anything they want through the workspace, given enough time. What about when you give 1-barter to someone, but with strings attached? Ehh, fuck it. It doesn't make sense to me, seeing as the barter should be leverage in a manipulation roll, not its automatic success? I don't know, seems off to me.

Anyway, if you’re generous with the Operator, she should be start getting pretty rich once she has picked up another gig and +1juggling or two. This should attracting interest from greedy or hungry PCs and NPCs alike. This’ll generate tension to play off.

Perhaps the Hardholder becomes interested in shutting down the other power factor in the area. Perhas the Operator hires the Gunlugger for around the clock protection and guard duty. Perhaps she starts dropping jingle over the Skinner in return for pleasure. Perhaps she starts paying the Savvyhead to construct that thing she needs to…

To what? We’ve established that the Operator shines when she’s ruthlessly pursuing barter, but what does she want the barter for, beyond mere survival? The playbook doesn’t offer any answers, but I think you need an answer to this question if the Operator’s struggle is to be interesting and compelling. What is her grand plan? Why should we care? Who is she, and why is she what she is? I know, right? I believe you really need to provide these answers so you can play your character, obviously, and so your Moonlighting has some actual stakes in the world, because the playbook doesn't really help you much figuring out who the Operator is. And the obligation gig is just an interesting problem, it's not enough to build character motivation on.

Or, in a rough enough apocalypse, perhaps survival is enough. The fluff text seem to imply it, but every other playbook is about something more than survival, they’re about also being awesome in some way. The Operator should be the same. (The Hardholder and the Maestro ‘D doesn’t even have to worry about their day to day needs as long as their hold or establishment is in working condition)

Why the Operator is the best playbook to play:
There is something really appealling of gritting your teeth and pulling off that thing you really want. Moonlighting will make sure you're never bored. It's cool to sprinkle cash around you. And it's great fun to be a leader and take care of all your crew and contacts.

And for a final argument, check out what +2cool looks like:
(How come all the Operator clips I can find are portraying chauvinistic men?)

What it brings to the world of the apocalypse:
The Operator is in interesting nexus for the a campaign as every other character could potentially deal with or work with the Operator, or be the target of the Operator's gig. The Operator can introduce an interesting dynamic of fiscal power and greed if she is succesful in earning barter, for instance, if the Gunlugger is out of barter, she can always go ask the Operator for a job which brings characters into interaction. Same with NPCs, of course. Moonlighting is also a fun move to get you framing scenes and bringing dynamic changes to the post-apocalyptic world.

Fundamental scarcities of the playbook:
Okay, so this entire focus was a guide on how to make the Operator an interesting playbook. To summarize:
  • Find out what the Operator wants
  • Make scarcity a real thing
  • Make barter into power
  • Make the crew and contacts interesting, capable and proactive
  • Be generous with Moonlighting
  • Have the game play out over months rather than days
  • Be generous with the barter peripheral moves. Except give 1-barter to someone, but with strings attached, I don't use it.
That's a lot of instructions, and in a way I feel the Operator is a flawed playbook for not providing the solutions itself. On the other hand, I think your game will improve if you follow these suggestions.

Oh, and make sure you don't get bogged down in the details of Moonlighting if you roll it most every session, although I recommend asking what deal they're brokering or what person they're murdering before rolling, to set up the stakes.

Moves and crap analysis:
Eye on the door is a great move for someone who keeps finding themselves in sticky situations, which Moonlighting tend to bring. Easy to trust and Reputation can make you quite competent at dealing socially with others, even though you're not a primarily Hot playbook.

As for other playbook moves, the Battlebabe has some great moves for you: Merciless is good as you are only armed with a modest weapon from the start, and things will get violent sooner or later. Ice cold is great for aggroing yourself out of a difficult situation or get the results you need from someone. Perfect instincts should also fit your needs, and your Sharp is probably +1.

Just as I recommend the Driver to get Moonlighting, an Operator with a car and A no shit driver is a fun combo. The Driver's Weather eye is good too, for opening your brain.

Just about all the Hoarder moves are good deals if you want to play up the greed aspect. Except Greed, paradoxically.

The Maestro 'D's Everybody eats, even that guy is good, but Fingers in every pie is something you can already do, by dropping jingle to get a thing you want.

Inspiring from the Quarantine is a good choice if you want to tie player characters to you as crew members.

Relationships and dynamics:
The Operator makes a good nexus for a game, seeing as potentially any other character could be an employer, a crew member, an adversary or a freelancer for the Operator. I'd start off by asking the other players what kind of talents they offer up to the Operator for barter/what kind of jobs they rely on the Operator for.

Other things to ask the Operator to get her going: What do you hope to achieve within one year? What would you do if you had a windfall of 10-barter, right now? What places you one notch above the rest? What is the best/worst thing that happened to you today? Who in your crew/contacts do you trust the most/the least? Fox left you a gift today, why?

The Hocus and the Hardholder has a wide influence in the world through their followers. (and to a lesser extent, the Maestro 'D and the Chopper) This can make interesting ambivalent relationships, if you have them rely on the Operator for something, but also put some of the Operator gigs at cross-purposes with them.

The Skinner and the Maestro 'D knows people, use that. When the Operator is trying to get to someone, they might want to go through these characters.

The Touchstone's strong moral code can put them indiffirent to some of the Operator's gigs, and firmly opposed to others. What happens when an unstoppable force meets an unmovable object?

The Chopper makes for an interesting and potentially unreliable partner, in that they and their gang are very specialised att violence, raiding and riding, making them both thankful employers for things they need done but don't know how to do, and interesting goons to send out to get the job done. When the Chopper gets into his head to extract protection money from all the Operator's venues, that'll be fun too.
The Brainer and the Hoarder both have unique resources, and are also potentially outcast weirdos, making them good as both employees and employers for shit they can't handle. They could also make great adversaries, driven by weird motivations to control people and collect things that the Operator is trying to help or deliver. A hell-bent proactive Brainer is both a great villain and employer!

The Savvyhead always needs stuff delivered to him, prepared for work, guarded from thieves. Consider making the Savvyhead a part of the crew! The Savvyhead benefits from being placed in a context, and as a part of the Operators crew could be a lot more dynamic and balanced power-wise than being the bitch of the local Hardholder. Same deal with the Driver, a specialised character that benefits from being part of a crew.

The Driver or a nomadic Faceless could make a nice antagonist that keeps interfering with the Operators Moonlighting for their own random motivations.

The Battlebabe and The Gunlugger are good, competent additions to a team, but if you play up the scarcity, these might also become threats, trying to rob your barter from you.


Apocalypse World / Playbook focus: The Hocus
« on: August 24, 2013, 01:32:17 PM »

Now it should be crystal fucking obvious that the gods have abandoned
Apocalypse World. Maybe in the golden age, with its one nation under god
and its in god we trust, maybe then the gods were real. Fucked if I know. All I
know is that now they’re gone daddy gone.
My theory is that these weird hocus fuckers, when they say “the gods,” what
they really mean is the miasma left over from the explosion of psychic hate
and desperation that gave Apocalypse World its birth. Friends,
that’s our
creator now.

The Hocus is visionary leader of 20 or so loyal but not fanatical followers. The Hocus brings meaning to his followers, and in return they bring him profit and surplus at good times, but also wants and needs at bad times. He is a primarily Weird character.
Graphic content

My take on it:
First of all, the Hocus can be many things to his followers. His followers can be his cult, his scene, his family, his staff, his students or his court. Two things are for certain, though:

One, the Hocus somehow brings meaning to his followers, he explains the world and preach to his followers how to transcend their pitiful lives through him, whether it be by study, compassion or orgies.

Two, if you're one of his followers, you can't have a real relationship to the Hocus. See, whatever his followers wish for deep down in their hearts, they project onto the Hocus. The Hocus is not a real person like they are, he is an elevated symbol, he is chosen, enlightened, perfect, a vessel for their desires. When Weaver Bird meets his followers, his followers doesn't meet Weaver Bird the person, they meet their own desires, what they need him to be for them.

See, no matter what you preach to your followers, you preach to their infantile wish of the Id. You preach to the part of their psyche that are still babies, that wish to become one with you, the perfect parent, and never feel pain, fear or hunger again. And you become one by walking the path, joining the sect, losing yourself in incest, bestiality, bloody sacrifice,  singing together or what have you.

Even if you preach to your followers to embrace the doctrines of guilt, shame, transcendance, discipline, purity, perfection or holiness, that also points to the Id – Because these are exactly the things that confirm that yes, there is uncontrolled, dangerous and bad desire within you, and yes, you must control and repress it. The concept of Purity always exists in reflection to the concept of Sin. Seriously, if you tell us that your cult preach purity and abstinance, isn't your first impulse to then add ”And also, there are orgies”? It can't just be me!

I mean, just look at nun porn! Nuns are off-limits, that just makes them HOTTER!

As a side note, I see a lot of innocent (creepy!) little girls as Hocuses, is that your experience too?

Every time a player picks up the Hocus, I get giddy and anticipative to see what they make out of it, because it is so sexy. Not sexy like the Skinner that wears hot clothes on a hot body or anything, but sexy like Id and sexy like sexuality. Take the Hocus and you'll mean everything to your followers. That is raw. That is real power!
I did not get the Hocus until I watched Conan, then it clicked.

But you'll also raise the stakes like hell up. Whip people into a frenzy, and they might get out of control. Be everything for your followers and they will expect everything from you and suffer the cruellest of disappointments and the hottest of rage when you fail them. Take sons and daughters and fathers and mothers will want them back. Preach the ultimate truth and someone contradicting it will get in your way. And just by going into what  desire and humanity is, you raise the stakes, lose a little control. If the Hocus makes you feel a little flustered or nervous, you're doing it right!
Stupid fucking crude Gunlugger.

Now I've only shown you videos of the Hocus getting offed, I feel bad. I can recommend a look at Kundun for some inspiring imagery surrounding a take on the Hocus that instead shows the compassion and reverence of religion:

Because, you know, your cult doesn't need to be a pretext for a goat-fucking man-sacrificing club (or goat-sacrificing man-fucking club for that matter) it can also be a very loving and deeply connected congregation of believers or students. Everything I've said about desire, the elevated status of the Hocus as a vessel for his followers projections and infantile wishes for unity still applies – I mean, a wish for a loving family might be ”infantile”, but is not an ugly or unnatural thing, it is a very beautiful thing!

Where the Operator, the Hardholder, the Chopper and the Maestro 'D gather followers around them for economical reasons, band together for barter, the Hocus connect others to him on a deeper level, a level we might have a hard time to grasp as secular westerners. Whether your Hocus and his followers are a thing you consider beautiful or ugly, I'd say the Hocus is always human. It's a lonely world out there, and psychologically we are pack animals, we need close relationships to survive, we crave an unambivalent group to feel safe, we need a purpose to feel happy. Bring a Hocus into the world of the apocalypse, and you get to explore that humanity through the interactions with his followers, and the truth he preaches.

Let's go back to Apocalypse Now and see what Kurtz has to say to make sense of the world he sees around him:

Why the Hocus is the best playbook to play:
The power of flesh is the real power!

Also, you get a big say in what the psychic maelstrom is like with your +2weird, and you get to make big claims about the world what with your prophetic stature and all.

And, of course, you get to the wonderful needs of your followers, without which you would be nothing.

What it brings to the world of the apocalypse:
So there is the dimension of humanity, through desire, disappointment and community, I've mentioned that. Also, if your Hocus manages to touch your desires as players and make you a little flustered or lustful in some way, that can really add to the ambience. Finally, since the Hocus followers live lives integrated in outside society, that can create some really interesting PC-NPC-triangles, like maybe the Gunlugger is a follower, or maybe some of the Hardholders liutenants or the Maestro 'D staff are followers.

Fundamental scarcities of the playbook:
I honestly have a hard time thinking of one. Oh, one of my players' first reactions to reading the hocus was a straight-face ”I can't imagine how you would have any problems with a cult at your disposal?”

Don't be that player. :D Trust me, followers' expectations on you are going to get you in a world of trouble soon enough.

Oh, and try to get at least one player characters to be your follower, so you don't end up antagonizing everyone with your fucked up shit.

Moves and crap analysis:
Fortunes is the core of the Hocus. Note that you roll+1 unless you get the Commerce option for your followers. Augury and Insight are also pretty cool options for your followers. Divine Protection is good for a character that walks around unarmed in a robe most of the time. Fucking whacknut, Charismatic and Seeing souls are pretty self-explanatory. You weird, weird good.

Concerning other playbook moves, there are a whole bunch of ones that roll+weird and could potentially fit with your concept. Healing touch is a given, and Dangerous & sexy is what you need to get if you want to play Thulsa Doom. Visions of Death and Bonefeel are good moves for a spooky Hocus, and Spooky Intense if you're planning to go into danger. Unnatural lust transfixion, Casual brain receptivity, Lost, Sticky fingers and Appraising eye are great for pulling strings and getting what you want. 

The Brainer moves Deep brain scan and In-brain puppet strings and Direct-brain whisper projection are probably hella useful for you, but I would stay out of Brainer territory, I feel it would cheapen what the Hocus is.

Fucking thieves is for a gang, but if your MC allows it, it could be a fun way to scrape by with your followers. Leadership is also a gang move, but pretty freaking cool if you want to take your followers to war. Reputation could be a nice move to set you up as an essential contact people have to deal with in the hold. Oftener right is also good for connecting you with others.

Relationships and dynamics:
Some questions to ask the Hocus to nuance faith and followers: What is the scariest moment of your life, what do you fear today? What is your weakness? What is your strength? Do you believe everything you preach? What do you desire? Who is your favorite follower? Who where your first followers, and when did that happen? What where your parents like?

The Angel is a good enemy. They are a grounded character with a low weird score, and benefit from some force to combat, and not just injury and disease. Your potentially irrational and self-destructive followers could be a thankful foil to them. Likewise with the Operator, who nevertheless is a good third party to get things done for you that you cannot get done through your followers, or must be kept discrete.

The Battlebabe or Gunlugger could be a follower or an enemy. I wouldn't trust them, though. The Faceless? I would trust them as a follower, unquestionly!

The mere existence of the Brainer is likely an inconvience to you at least – Here's some weirdo going around controlling people, just like you! Only thing is, they don't claim to bring truth or meaning to their lives. Isn't that proof against your truth, if someone can twist that truth with their mind powers? If they are a follower, I would probably put them behind the curtains. Would love to hear how you did it though! The Hardholder is also a natural enemy of sorts, here is someone claiming peoples loyalty and telling them what to do – That's your thing!

The Skinner is also a potential rival in that they control people with emotional strings. Or they might the master of ceremonies at your place, with sacrifices, sex ceremonies or blood art as their art! Your cult just got twice as hot!

Consider mixing your followers with the Chopper's gang for an eventful pilgrimage!

The Savvyhead needs connections to the world, so consider making yourself dependent on them. The easy way is to have them, supply a drug or substance you use in your ceremonies. The Hoarder and the Maestro 'D can also fill this niché, the Hoarder could do real well as a local resident of your church, actually. And just like the Skinner, the Maestro 'D is potentially a hot rival for followers, might lull your followers into inaction with sex, drugs or booze.

The Quarantine and the Touchstone are to be feared or conquered.

Apocalypse World / Playbook focus: The Gunlugger
« on: August 20, 2013, 05:45:15 AM »

Apocalypse World is a mean, ugly, violent place. Law and society have broken down completely. What’s yours is yours only while you can hold it in your hands. There’s no peace. There’s no stability but what you carve, inch by inch, out of the concrete and dirt, and then defend with murder and blood. Sometimes the obvious move is the right one.

The Gunlugger has the best weapons, the most weapons and the best armor. Their moves are focused on survival and violence. Their primary stat is Hard. Simply put, no-one can stand up to the Gunlugger in a fight. When it comes to social competence, they're shit.

My take on it:
The Gunlugger is both simple and tricky. Simple in that it is completely obvious what it is about. We live with a culture of violence surrounding us. Action films, action video games, and action roleplaying games, all abound with gunluggers. There is a lot of familarity with violent men (and to a lesser extent, women) to draw from, and Apocalypse World is a violent place where guns are often an obvious solution.

The tricky part is making a very violent and powerful character work in a world where everyone has a name and relationships to other people, where a persons death has consequences. Even evil men who are out to kill, plunder and rape you and your friends, and these men are of no scarcity in the post apocalypse, have friends and a place in the world. Their death might bring vengeance, bitterness, and chaos in the power vacuum.

The Gunlugger should kill! The Gunlugger should destroy! And the Gunlugger should threaten with death and destruction!

It is her nature, her strength, it is awesome, and it brings good drama. You can try not to kill and hurt people around you, but you'd be in a world of trouble for it, as you would be laying down your one strength, your one means of survival. You can delay it, get your results by going aggro rather than siezing by force, restraining your power. But your power will be there, waiting for you to unleash it.

As long as the threat of violence is just something implied, kept in check by restraint, you can let this tension build, like a storm slowly building up. Building tension like this with rival characters and NPCs who are also powerful and Hard works great.

See, this is the beautiful dilemma of the Gunlugger. Violence begets violence, but survival also begets violence. When you use your guns you rule supreme, but you also also invite chaos and loss of control. Chaos, since you can never predict how the immediate moments will play out (even Gunluggers miss!) and neither can you predict how the aftermath will play out. Vengeance, power vacuum, collateral damage, and new scarcities are all potential snowballing threats when killing someone. Savour the tension that is the Gunlugger's life!

Unless of course, your Gunlugger is a sociopath who wouldn't give a damn about anything, in which case, begone! Begone from my focus thread! I can teach you nothing more, go forth and be glorious!

Why the Gunlugger is the best playbook to play:
You're the hardest there is! If your definition of a cool rpg character is that they can kick butt, you're going to be the coolest of them all. If you don't mind the consequences, if you're not one for subtlety, you can exterminate any NPC you dislike from the face of the earth, and you can bully around any character with your guns and not give a fuck. Excerting power through hotness, weirdness or sharpness is a lot more demanding on player, but behing Hard is simple. You can give a beating and take a beating, if you love playing hardball with the MC, this is the one for you.

What it brings to the world of the apocalypse:
Sudden, brutal death. Also, interesting tension between characters, especially other Hard characters. And make sure to keep a kill count, that tends to be interesting!

Fundamental scarcities of the playbook:
The Gunlugger needs enough resistance to play with. A singular tough NPC won't faze them as a threat, as an MC you need to think in terms of gangs of enemies, well-equiped and coordinated death squads, raiders mounted on trucks or bikes, fortified bunkers, mobs of disgruntled post-apocalyptic denizens, guys with knives and pipewrenches attacking the Gunlugger naked and unarmed in her bed, tanks, monsters, mechas or robots. Don't be afraid of dealing a little harm (i.e making them mad), they can take it. Consider the Gunlugger an invitation to harm. Having your Gunlugger face truely frightening opposition and having them get hurt in the process only serves to make them look more badass.

Also, give them trouble that they can't solve through violence, and trouble that they could solve through violence but they'd rather not.

Remember that moves are not magic, and neither is armor. I had a Gunlugger with 2-armor sieze a gang by force by calmly walking up to their leader and smacking him. The gang was firing guns for all their worth at her, but the player choose to suffer little harm and with armor took no harm at all. While this served to make the character look absolutely frightening (which is good), I think it lowered the stakes of the world in the long run. Instead, play firefights like a real thing. Armor wont help you if you give your enemies every opportunity to take aim at your face. Sieze by force is when you use your outmost capability as a Hard person to take your objective. Suffer little harm is taking cover and a measure of luck, not standing straight up in the firing field. Heck, you might even argue that sieze by force is not possible to use in such a situation, you might ask the player to get into a position where it is feasable first. Don't be a dick, though. Be honest with your playes, and they'll appriciate the reality and trustworthiness of the world. Remember the words of the prophet: Fiction first, and To do it, do it!

Finally, do not be intimidated by your player playing a weapon of mass destruction, explore it and draw out the tension, the awesome and humanity out of it, and remember to look at your NPCs through crosshairs.

Moves and crap analysis:
True to her name, the Gunlugger is a walking armory. The weight of her gear should not be underestimated: Firstly, she get a fuck-off big gun, sniper rifle, machine gun, assault rifle or grenade launcher. Find yourself on the wrong end of that gun, and I'd call your chances of survival slim at best. Secondly, she gets two serious guns and/or gun upgrades, and finally a backup weapon: 9mm, big-ass knife, machete, grenades or an infinite number of knives; Picture the scene in The Dark Night where the police officer body-searches the Joker.

Though you're Hard, your Hot score is terrible, so socially you're something of a train wreck. If you want to benefit from your special move, I guess you're going to need a wingman.

Battle-hardened is quite powerful as you want to roll well on Acting under fire. Fuck this shit and Prepared for the inevitable are super-useful for survivability. Battlefield instincts could really give flair to your character if you use it consistently. Bloodcrazed raises the tension of violence even more, as it makes you even deadlier. NOT TO BE FUCKED WITH is not only a move with a sweet as hell name, but a move that changes scale: You go from being a guy on a battlefield to counting as a small gang. Awesome if your game has a lot of large-scale battles. ”Okay, so here's the chopper gang, here's the people trying to hold the palissade, and here's Uncle's armored force” ”What's that over there?” ”Oh, that's Fido”. Remember, it's only for real battles though!

Regarding other playbook moves, The Battlebabe, The Touchstone and The Operator are good places to look. Dangerous & Sexy and Perfect instincts can raise your character's presence when entering a room, Visions of death makes her more of a weird angel of death, Impossible reflexes lets you play a scantily clad Gunlugger. The Touchstone moves are all good too, if you want to go in that direction. The Operator's Moonlighting is attractive to me, just because I like the idea of a Gunlugger conducting (or trying to conduct) business in an orderly and professional manner. Reputation can also be a good pick to find other dimensions to your Gunlugger, and Easy to trust is good if you want to be able to at least manage yourself in social negotiation. The Hardholder's Leadership is a good addition if you get a gang together. The Quarantine's Disciplined engagement is wicked useful, if the MC lets you pick it - In a way it loses the tension and unconditional consequences of violence. If you want to play up yourself as unstoppable, take a look at the Faceless moves. NOT TO BE FUCKED WITH + Indomitable + Oh yeah! would make you a true force of nature.
Relationships and dynamics:
To create contrast, I like to ask Gunluggers about their ordinary life. ”What's the place where you sleep like?” ”What is your morning routine?” ”What is your favorite meal?” ”How do you relax?” ”What is your pet?” ”What is your favorite trinket or posession?” ”Who do you like or admire?” ”Who makes you awkward?” There's just something about the daily life of a killer that still is fascinating to me, and it helps ground the Gunlugger in a relationship to the world and people around him.

A Driver with a tank, with the guns manned by a Gunlugger is probably the scariest thing you'll encounter in Apocalypse World, so consider doing just that. The Angel could also be your best friend. The Hocus could be your monstrosity and humanity if you joined their cult. The Hoarder could be a source of jobs and weapon deals for you – Just wait until they get it into their head they have to procure your fuck-off gun for their collection! Your relationship with The Quarantine could also become a classic – I'm thinking good cop / bad cop!

The Skinner and the Maestro D', there's some great potential for contrast. Maybe they're the only one you trust. Maybe they're the only one with power over you.

The Hardholder and The Chopper might not individually be as tough as you are, but they're backed up with gangs with lots of hurt. Should it come to deadly blows, they can keep toe-to-toe with you and kill you, but not before you kill them or have their gang suffer severe losses. This makes them interesting rivals. I played a game as a Chopper, and the Gunlugger was a constant source of unease. The last thing I wanted was open confrontation, but I also refused to yield to him to remain an authority to my gang. That made for some great, tense, roleplaying. The Faceless too, could probably bring you down in a suicide attack if you incurred his wrath. The Quarantine could be your best worst enemy if you're ideologically opposed.

Consider working for the Operator or the Savvyhead. A Savvyhead with real military power to back them up could make a really interesting presence in the world of the apocalypse.
I was going to open this focus with this clip, until I realized William Blake is not the Gunlugger. He is the Battlebabe with Visions of Death. For Johnny Depp playing a Gunlugger, watch him as John Dillinger in Public Enemies.

Apocalypse World / The Driver
« on: August 16, 2013, 12:14:40 AM »

Came the apocalypse, and the infrastructure of the Golden Age tore apart.
Roads heaved and split. Lines of life and communication shattered. Cities,
cut off from one another, raged like smashed anthills, then burned, then

A few living still remember it: every horizon scorching hot with civilization
in flames, light to put out the stars and moon, smoke to put out the sun.

In Apocalypse World the horizons are dark, and no roads go to them.

The Driver has a car, which provides mobility and protection. Her stats are a click subpar to the other playbooks, but when doing moves from behind the wheel she gains the upper hand through awesome bonuses. She has no obvious connections to the world, as a matter of fact her Hx and special move makes her out as explicitly a loner.
The Journey, Book of Eli

My take on it:
I am no expert on the Driver, having MC'd a Driver for a grand total of one single session. Furthermore, as I try to get to know the Driver, try to pin her down, I get a sense that she escapes my grasp, just as she escapes responsibilities and relationships in the fiction.

On one hand, the Driver cannot claim to be the strongest or most important playbook. On the other hand, when she is behind the wheel, backed up by her A no shit driver move,  she is among the most effective, stat-wise.

On one hand, the Driver is independent, a loner. On the other hand, as she controls the dimension of mobility (Rivalled only by the Chopper, who nevertheless has to take the management of his gang into account) and the engine power and metal protection of a car, she is excellent at backing other characters up and potentially has a monopoly on the business of transporting things, people and messages.

And on one hand, the Driver embodies freedom, and on the other hand she is helplessly bound to her vehicle, bound to the simple facts that her vehicle needs gas in the tank, whole tires and her behind the wheel.

I suppose one could say all roads are open to her. She must decide, and be her own driving force. (oh god, the puns!)

So, first of all, both as a player and MC, ask your Driver why she is a Driver, what she wants to do. If she wants to be an action hero, the MC should set her environment up with injustice and violence that only a righteous daredevil backed up by horsepower can set right. Be generous with what you can do in a car – Let her crash down barricades, run over people, do drive-bys and hit and runs.

If she has a more humble vision of exploring relationships with other characters and the Driver's approach-reject dynamic, set her up with interesting NPCs with humanity and complexity. If she wants to explore the post-apocalyptic world itself, prepare to really barf forth apocalyptica on the roads and the landscape. Your Driver just signaled she wishes to have the landscape and the car as her lovers, so make them into interesting characters for her. Make the landscape beautiful, cruel, kind, mysterious, fickle, harsh and/or wonderful.

Or, instead of making strong choices before play, you could stay open and curious and get to know the Driver as you find a balance between these things. The Driver makes for an interesting and complex protagonist, but is easily overshadowed by more direct playbooks. You also might want to set trouble up for the Driver at driving distance, so the Gunlugger won't just come and level the place. Or, you could trust this very balance of the Driver: Perhaps she sees and cares about what the battle-hardened Gunlugger does not? You could potentially turn your apocalypse into a game of Dogs in the Vineyard with your Driver as the righteous dog on the road.

For some reason, I have a hard time imagining the Driver as a ruthless psychopath, even though reckless driving is a diagnostic criteria for antisocial personality disorder, but maybe that's just me. Go for it, If that's your brew! Remember that metal is hard, flesh is soft, and running people over could be judged as armor piercing harm.

I guess my main point is that you should really let the presence of the Driver influence the setup of the game. See, this is one of my very favorite moments of Apocalypse World, the moment the playbooks are chosen, the moment where the game is born. What game will it be this time? A weird, crude, subtle, small or grand game? The focus and the capabilities of playbooks dictate what the game will be about, and when a player picks up the Driver, you all need to listen up and pay attention to this flighty little playbook and make an apocalypse that's as much about the Driver as the Hardholder or the Maestro D'. Let your mind wander to the world and genre tropes of Mad Max and Knight Rider, and... Actually, those are pretty lame. Make your own driver tropes instead.
Mad Max 2, opening scene

Why the Driver is the best playbook to play:
You get to drive cars on roads, cars and roads are awesome. Like the Faceless and the Battlebabe, noone can hold you. You can run through obstacles and be gone on the road before anyone can stop you. If people want to go somewhere far, somewhere fast or somewhere safe, they come to you.

What it brings to the world of the apocalypse:
The Driver brings a grander scale to the world and makes distances a real thing. With the right attention and barf the landscape too will come alive. The MC might want to make sure that distances and travelling is a difficult or dangerous thing for most to let the Driver really shine, and create an interesting dynamic of other characters relying on the Driver for transportation.

Fundamental scarcities of the playbook:
So, I've spent this focus telling you to really pay attention and care to the Driver and her motivations, so that's a given. Of course, that goes both as an MC and a player. Find your motivation and connection to other characters! The Driver's dynamic of escaping connections won't work unless there are also connections drawing her in, yeah?

Another thing you might want to try if the Driver spends most of her time driving in silence is agressive scene framing to cut between the potent moments and meetings with others - If the Driver is indeed rootless, she could end up anywhere. Cut to the Driver arriving when the slavers just torched the village. Cut to the Driver on a cliff overseeing the secret deal between the Brainer and the Hardholder. Cut to the Driver meeting the devil in the desert.

And remember: Cars and roads are awesome. Make the landscape alive. Barf forth apocalyptica.

Moves and crap analysis:
So you've got a great car. Maybe ask the Savvyhead if you can owe him a favour for having rigged a remote-control device for your car?

A no shit driver is your lifeblood. Too bad any other character can get that move and be an even more awesome driver than you, seeing as they have better stats from the start. To be honest, that's kind of lame, so you might want to ask your MC to somehow restrict that move for other characters. Jonatan used the rule that if you wish to pick a move from a playbook in play, you have to ask that player first.

Seeing as you have an advantage at the basic moves while in your car, you can look forward to The ungiven future and expanding those moves!

What about the other moves? Good in the clinch is great, as anyone wants to be good at acting under fire, especially a daredevil Driver. Weather eye is also a good deal to improve your brain-opening. Daredevil is also great as it protects you, your car and those following you. and one more move. My other car is a tank speaks for itself. Hey, maybe get Collector and ask the MC if you can have an helicopter?  Moonlighting is awesome if you have a hard time finding things to do, and you can get it without using up your ”pick a move from other playbook” allowance – Yay!

Concerning other playbook moves, there are actually a whole lot of interesting ones for you!

The Skinner move Hypnotic is perfect for you. It means everyone taking an extended ride has a chance of becoming fixated with you, and then helping you out with stuff. And if you sex, you might have to stay away from them because it's awkward. Ha ha! Brilliant.

Likewise, if you ride a motorbike or anything else where the passenger has to scoot up next to you, ask the MC if you can use the Brainer moves Deep brain scan and In-brain puppet strings on the same terms! Eugh.

Professional compassion is another way to benefit from your good Sharp and could make a good dramatic turning point for a lonesome Driver opening up to others. Reputation and Lost could also help you get friends.

The Savvyhead has some interesting moves: Bonefeel is great for aformentioned scene framing, Things speak lets you get a closer relationship with your car, and Reality's fraying edge could turn your car into a ghostmobile!

Indomitable is a pretty cool move to have on a battlefield, it let's you cancel attacks, neutralize guys and appear where you need to be. Now imagine doing that, only you're also in a car!

If you want to prove that you're badass, take a look at the Gunlugger moves Bloodcrazed, Insano like Drano or NOT TO BE FUCKED WITH. Prepared for the inevitable might save your life when no Angel is around, and Oh yeah is good for improving your smashthroughability. Get Visionary and Towering presence if you want to play Dogs in the Vineyard in Apocalypse World.

Relationships and dynamics:
Questions to create a relationship to others: ”Who could you never stand losing?” ”Who do you owe your life? Who owes their life to you? Who do you desire?”
Questions to create a relationship to your car: ”What does it smell like inside your car? What is the prettiest thing on the inside of your car? What is uncomfortable about riding in your car?”
Questions to create a relationship to the world: ”What place do you keep returning to? What place do you avoid? What is the first thing you see/hear when you approach this place?”

Consider for a second framing the game as a mobile one, centered around a caravan (led by a Hardholder, Chopper or neither) or a Hardhold placed on a train or ship.

Or just cram a Battlebabe, a Skinner and an Operator into a car, and hit the road. Maybe the Quarantine has a water ship you need to go get. Maybe the Touchstone or the Hocus has a pilgrimage you need to take them on, and you got the premise for a little campaign right there.

The Skinner probably has as many complicated relationships as you do. Get a complicated relationship with them! The dynamics with this character could potentially go any god given direction, but I think it would be interesting. Remember what I said about Hypnotic?

The Savvyhead, the Operator and the Angel might really benefit from your services and just like you they need friends to play with. The Hardholder could probably use you too, but can you stand working for The Man?

Make awesome friends with the Savvyhead and have them make your car awesome.

The Battlebabe is a free spirit, just like you, and potentially smells better than the Gunlugger or Faceless. Good potential for teamwork or messy relationships there.

The Chopper is the one character you'll probably keep running into. Makes a great rival if you don't join his gang.

Apocalypse World / Playbook focus: The Brainer
« on: August 13, 2013, 10:12:01 AM »
Varje tisdag och fredag postar jag en artikel om en av Apocalypse World's playbooks. Idag har turen kommit till The Brainer.

[size:23pt]The Brainer[/size]

Brainers are the weird psycho psychic mindfucks of Apocalypse World. They have brain control, puppet strings, creepy hearts, dead souls, and eyes like broken things. They stand in your peripheral vision and whisper into your head, staring. They clamp lenses over your eyes and read your secrets. They’re just the sort of tasteful accoutrement that no well-appointed hardhold can do without.

Brainers are post-apocalyptic psychics, with the ability to read and twist the minds of others. Their primary stat is weird, and they tend to be creepy outcasts. They also have a lot of barter and powerful gear.
Psycho Mantis

My take on it:
My god, what's not to love about the Brainer? I don't even know what needs to be said about them, more than any playbook I think it speaks for itself. Just look at the words coming out of this playbook: ”weird psycho psychic mindfucks”, ”unnatural lust transfixion” ”preternatural at-will brain attunement”, ”direct-brain whisper projection”, ”in-brain puppet strings” ”pain-wave projector”, ”violation glove”. To me, these words communicate everything, in a clinical and science-speaky kind of way. While the Hocus is religiously weird and the Savvyhead is intuitively weird, the Brainer is clinically weird.

The game paints the Brainer as an outcast, inhuman, separate from the rest of humanity. Not strange really, if you look to what the brainer do, they fuck with brains. That is in itself creepy and inhuman! What would it do to you to be able to read and manipulate other people's minds? It would turn other people and their minds into tools that could be used, into means rather than ends in itself. Just like bodies can turn into mere business for someone working with modeling or surgery, seeing bodies every day, seeing how they work, learning how to make of them what you wish, minds and souls would turn into business for the Brainer. ”Kindness”, ”Rage”, ”Fear”, ”Madness” and so on would no longer be the existential stuff of life, but rather just words, qualities that could sometimes be beneficial and sometimes an obstacle for the goal of your current mindfuck project.

So the question is rather, can you make a social and kindhearted brainer? And would you enjoy it? We had a nice and kind brainer in one of our games hiding her powers and posing as the Angel, which also worked, as it created another kind of alienation and solitude through lies and charade. But I feel that alienation should always be a part of the package, mind control should never be an ”okay” thing. The Brainer special move is excellent for this purpose: When the Brainer sleep with someone, he reads them with a deep brain scan, whether he wants to or not, making ”normal” intimacy impossible to the Brainer, and whatever intimacy that comes from getting to know someone this way will be weird and always coloured by invasiveness.

So, accept your mindfuckness and revel in it!

And now, music!

Bad Romance

I fink u freeky

But also, explore it. What sides of the Brainer are strange, what sides are human? Is there sexuality, curiosity, fear, love, pride, shame, passion or coldness? You're playing the brainer, we are all curious about your character and we want to know! So be prepared to delve into your own mind as well.

And there is the power, of course. You don't even have to figure out how to make your character creepy, just set him up with a clear motivation, things he wants, and then have him use the tools available to him to pursue these goals. Since his tools are creepy, that will make him creepy. If your Brainer doesn't want to be creepy, that'll make it tragic, too!

Why the Brainer is the best playbook to play:
Ultimate power! You get to control peoples' minds! Either mind-control them for your own benefit, or charge others highly for your services. You also get to do weird crazy shit and revel in it, and you don't need any other excuse than ”I'm the Brainer!” So, knock yourself out! Or, if you're the introspective kind of player, you can play the tragic angle instead and really get to explore the tragedy of your characters existence! And finally, you get so much barter and so much hi-tech gear, it's awesome. And finally, as a high weird character, you get a big say in how the maelstrom works.

What it brings to the world of the apocalypse:
Creepiness. Innocence and loss of innocence. Powerful technology artifacts. Also, one great thing about Apocalypse World is the power assymetry. Like, the Gunlugger takes down anyone in a one-on-one fight, but the Hardholder has an entire hold to back him up, while the Hocus is everything for her followers, and the Skinner has social power. Adding a Brainer to the mix adds a whole nother dimension of power: Mind control.

Fundamental scarcities of the playbook:
The Brainer needs a purpose beyond just weird behaviour. Like, either there is a struggle for humanity and acceptance, or there is just insane weirdness to the core, which is fine too - then you can explore the method to the madness, how the psyche of your brainer works. Just madness for madness sake will become hollow and empty fast. There also needs to be a balance, the Brainer should be neither a popular cheerleader or completely alone. He needs a friend or two, or at least some subordinates or superiors. If he is a complete creep there is also the possibility that the other characters will get enough of his mindfucking and wipe him out. I'd love to see a completely balls to the wall Brainer though, who amasses puppets and meatshields out of NPCs, and push hard to establish himself as a local a warlord no matter what anyone else thinks of it.

Moves and crap analysis:
I think Vincent nailed mind control with this one. First up is Unnatural lust transfixion, which lets you seduce people with Weird instead of Hot, and Casual brain receptivity where you can  read a person with Weird instead of Sharp, and you just have to look at them. So, both of these are basically taking the architecture of the game that is already there and saying, ”You can do this really competently, and it's psychic”.

Then there is Deep brain scan which let's you find out other peoples secrets and weaknesses, if you have time and intimacy with them, setting you up to exploit this in your next moves.

Direct-brain whisper projection and In-brain puppet strings lets you command people through telepathy. They have a choice though, if they don't follow your command, they take harm for it. Now, I really like this, first because it avoids falling into complete mind control, which in my opinion is boring/bland/alienating to the other players. Secondly, because it jives with me as a psychologist to imagine brain control as a voice in your head saying ”You must go and fuck up Brace”, followed by a overwhelmning and acute feeling of anxiety and dread that some great but undefined and vague catastrophe or harm will come to you if you don't. That's pretty close to how severe anxiety can manifest, and since anxiety is a somatic experience, I feel this take on it touches on our human conditions in a way. I like it. Kind of OCD mind control, except the whole fuck people up-part.

The Brainer also start with 5-barter (a lot!) and some pretty sweet gear. Someone said on Barf forth apocalyptica that every time a Brainer has been in play, the player chose violation glove, because, hey... ”Violation glove”. It lets you bypass time and intimacy and just mindfuck people right there. 

Violation glove, by Sunamori, for Luxe eternal

Me, I'm in love with the pain-wave projector. Hits everyone around you except you for 1-harm armor piercing. Suffer, bitches! Implant syringe and receptivity drugs makes your moves more potent against the target. Brain relay lets you use your powers at a distance, opening up for some pretty creative mindfuckery. Deep ear plugs protects the wearer from all brainer moves and gear, so you can give them to a friend before you unleash the pain-wave projector around you. Except for that I'm not really sure what to make of them, unless there are NPC Brainers. Then they'd be hella sweet.

As for other playbook moves, you could take Merciless from the Battlebabe playbook. Suddenly, your psychic shit does 2-harm instead of 1-harm, meaning it'll straight up kill anyone who gets in your way! Opposing your whisper projected commands = Death. Botched in-brain puppet strings = Death. Pain-wave projector = Bloodbath. Or Impossible reflexes, also from the Battlebabe, and reskin it to weird-ass psychic bullet protection, Akira-style.
Lost from the Skinner playbook or Bonefeel from the Savvyhead are good moves to set up secluded brainfuckery, or you could get Frenzy from the Hocus playbook to propel your weirdness to truly epic proportions. Or maybe Infirmary from the Angel because oh god noooooo

Relationships and dynamics:
Tto start exploring mind, humanity and relationships in the Brainer, ask him things like ”Who is precious/scary/confusing to you?” ”Where did you come from?” ”What is your recurring dream?” ”What would you never do to anyone?” ”What is the kindest act anyone has done to you?”

The Angel is your opposite in a way – Unweird, grounded, somatic and probably a nice guy or girl. You could set up some real antagonism there or, may God have mercy on us all, team up in secret.

If you're in a group with a Hardholder, they can't live with you, and can't live without you. Have fun! The Operator is also a potential employer, or the Chopper, if your character is truly an outcast of the hold. Friendship with The Maestro D' or the Skinner, or dependance on their drugs/performance could both highlight your humanity and be a nice excuse to get out and meet people.

The first thing I would do when playing Brainer in a game with the Savvyhead in it would be to ask him to make me all the sweet gear I missed out on at character creation. The next thing would probably be building maelstrom-powered devices bordering between technology and psychology. The third thing would probably be the Savvyhead building anti-brainer protection and weapons. Lot's of fun to be had, in other words!

I have a hard time seeing a Brainer co-existing with a Hocus. They both claim to define weirdness, but in different ways. My guess is you'll have war over subjects (pawns) or a war of intrigue, maybe the Brainer infiltrates the cult?

And what about the Faceless? You'd have this:

The Driver, this:

The Hoarder, this:

Apocalypse World / Playbook focus: The Battlebabe
« on: August 08, 2013, 06:42:58 PM »

Even in a place as dangerous as Apocalypse World, battlebabes are, well.
They’re the ones you should walk away from, eyes down, but you can’t.
They’re the ones like the seductive blue crackling light, y’know? You
mistake looking at them for falling in love, and you get too close and it’s a
zillion volts and your wings burn off like paper.

Dangerous .

The Battlebabe is designed to be an interesting protagonist. Like a stranger in town, they have no inherent connections to the world in the form of facilities or people working for them. They have moves to survive danger and socially dominate situations. Their primary stat is Cool, which is used to keep their head cool, avoid trouble, stay in control.

My take on it:
Battlebabes can be a little tricky to pin down. Their name implies that they're the ”baddest ass” of the apocalypse, but that spot belongs to the Gunlugger. Other playbooks are very clear what your character does everyday, like, the Driver drives, the Hardholder rules, the Operator does jobs, the Skinner does art, and so on. But the Battlebabe playbook doesn't give you anything to start with, the Battlebabe has no given place in the post-apocalyptic society. She really is the stranger.

I think the key to understanding the Battlebabe is instead looking to her stats. She has a crap score for Hard, which means that straight-up confrontational violence will probably end in pain for her. She has a +1 Hot, which means there is a lot of possibilities for you to push your will through with people through manipulation or seduction. Foremost, she has a whopping +3 Cool, (every other playbook starts with +2 in their primary stat) which means she can deal with (through the basic move acting under fire) almost any danger or trouble you throw at her.

What emerges from all this is a cocky, independent motherfucker who does whatever she feels like, and never let's other get the drop on her. When you play a Battlebabe, take a strong stance for what you want, and don't let anyone stop you – Play your passion! Vincent writes ”when you want to play someone dangerous and provocative, play a Battlebabe”, and I think he's spot on. Above all, be brave! Be provocative!

(okay, one paragraph on the Zen of Apocalypse World again)
See, it's easy to consider Acting under fire a reactive move, seeing as you use it to deal with shit that comes up, but as I expanded on in the Hardholder focus, when you play Apocalypse World, you narrate your character however you want until resistance comes up, right? So, that's how you should play the Battlebabe. Do whatever you want. Be cocky. Be assertive. When things become difficult, the MC will have you roll acting under fire, and you'll most likely make the roll, because you're the goddamn battlebabe, you're cool as ice.

Use this to your advantage. You're great at acting under fire, so start a fire. Bring the heat. Escalate, and other people just won't be able to keep up like you do. Pick the really maverick arenas, like running on roofs, chicken-racing motorcycles or wrestling on a volcano, I don't know.

Vincent talks about Battlebabes having primarily Mindshare effectiveness rather than Fictional effectiveness or Mechanical effectiveness. That means they make good protagonists, and they should recieve the space in the story to match. Tying back to the fact that Battlebabes lack strong connections to the world at the start, they really start at square one and work themselves up. So, when you do fail that cool, hot or hard roll and end up broken, betrayed, broken or lost along the way it is just a part of the rising hero's arc. The first time I felt I really pushed the envelope as a new-fledged MC was when I made a hard move on the Battlebabe in our group, had her captured and a forced witness to the perverted dog-orgies of the hyena cult. This sexual/violative content was something new in our gaming group, but it worked, and the Battlebabe escaped with a sworn promise to bring these fucknuts down, or something to that extent.

Battlebabes can pretty much find any niche, I've seen the motorcycle helmet psychopathic killer, the hot but immature and impulsive woodsman with a sniper rifle, and the good-hearted white knight of the hardhold. I imagine they're all rootless wanderers at heart, though, who wasn't born to their place in the world, they found their way through chance or grim determination. If you where pressed me to tell what the Battlebabes ”job” in the post-apocalypse was, I would probably say adventurer and troublemaker. Which, of course, is easily recogniseable, movies and games are abound with Battlebabes. Maybe take a look at The Fifth Element for two hours of two Battlebabes, or maybe Hamlet – The most classic Battlebabe of them all?

Why the Battlebabe is the best playbook to play:
You get to be the hero, and you can be whatever you want! You got sweet moves and sweet gear, what the hell are you waiting for? The apocalypse world is your oyster, and you can take a little food poisoning.

What it brings to the world of the apocalypse:
If you really play on the Battlebabes potential for protagonism, it can bring a main character of sorts and character arc to your game. So what kind of Battlebabe you play also says something about the story as a whole, what your Battlebabe struggles with can inform what the world struggles with. Individualism versus Loyalty? Sanity versus Madness? Compassion versus Cruelty? Authority versus Revolution?

If you play your Battlebabe boldly, it'll be a force of flux in the world, bringing change, chaos and/or interesting events to it. Also, since the Battlebabe is connected to nothing and everything, you have a character that can be brought into almost any situation.

Fundamental scarcities of the playbook:
Of course, the lack of a clearly defined place in the world is a double-edged sword. You must find your drive for your Battlebabe, beyond mere boredom and troublemaking. You have to make bold decisions and then go for them, you have to trust that the MC and your +3cool will back you up. If you feel lost or intimidated at the start of your first game of Apocalypse World, the Battlebabe might not be able to carry you.

Moves and crap analysis:
Dangerous & sexy and Ice cold firmly establishes you as able to dominate or intimidate people by sheer presence. Rolling +cool to go aggro (threatening with violence) is so deliciously sweet, especially as your hard is to crap.

Perfect instincts and Impossible reflexes are really neat as they ensure that even if you're ambushed or attacked in your bed, you're still present and ready to deal with it. Visions of death is just awesome, I mean, you get to decide someone who lives or dies in an upcoming encounter. What other game does that? That's yours, Battlebabe. Enjoy it!

The Battlebabe also gets to customize her own weapons. making them quite deadly if wielded correctly. In sheer force, the Gunlugger wins, of course, but this gives an element of style to your fighting. In battle, you'll try to avoid head-on-collision as much as possible. Always try to manouever to a position where you can easily win the fight, or use the surroundings to your advantage, be creative. Roll +cool, not +hard.

Hell, even intimacy leaves the Battlebabe unfazed, as her special move cancels out any other character's special move (special moves are triggered by sex). This means others have nothing on you, sexually. If you sleep with someone it's because you want to, not because you need to. Battlebabes never get chosen, they're the ones choosing. An alternative way to interpret it to play up the world-weariness of your character could be that for your Battlebabe, sex is a dull affair. But that sounds a little boring. Related, Suna asked this on Barf forth apocalyptica:

It's an oddity, but I had 4 PCs made a four-way sex move. Thgere was a Battlebabe involved. How do you rule this case? Every sex moves is nullified? OR only the sex move of each PC with the BB, while we can consider valid the sex moves bteween the other PC?

And it's the best rules question EVER!

When it comes to taking moves from other playbooks, you can go anyway, really. Daredevil or A no shit driver from the Driver playbook helps you play even more agressively. Healing touch of the Angel or Bonefeel of the Savvyhead if you want to play up the weird, Moonlighting from the Operator is always a good choice,  A devil with a blade from the Maestro D' if you want to be a blade-wielding warrior, or maybe Prepared for the inevitable from the Gunlugger to take care of yourself?+

Dynamics and relationships
Good questions to ask the Battlebabe: ”What makes you angry?” ”Who do you hate? Who do you fear? Who do you love?” ”What is your most serious scarcity right now?” ”Where do you sleep? Where did you come from?” Good questions to find and rouse the Battlebabe to passion and action.

You can easily be a part of the Chopper's gang, the Hardholder's gang, the Operator's crew or the Hocus' cult, and that'll give you relationships and interesting things to do. Or even better, get your own gang as your first improvement and set out to crush the tyranny of the Hardholder or the Hocus, play the magnetic revolutionary striking out from ambushes and rousing the people with your hotness! The Battlebabe is a natural rebel.

The Driver makes a great ally, with the mobility and brute force to complement your presence. You are both free spirits, but your playbooks also need people around you to bounce off of, and if you're sleeping together it's never problematic like it usually is with the Driver. It's like a perfect match! The Angel is another playbook who needs a friend (or enemy) and if medical supplies is a scarcity, I bet the Battlebabe can hook him up, same with The Savvyhead. All these three playbooks really benefit from another character bringing trouble and/or passion to their lives, so form strong (positive, negative or ambivalent) relationships to them.

I have no idea what the relationship to the Brainer or Skinner would be like, but I imagine it would be explosive. And I can't imagine you having anything but passion for The Maestro D' and their establishment. Pure passion, or passion mixed with hate or contempt for the decadence, your pick.

The Battlebabe is the strong lone survivor type of character, which means you won't need a Touchstone, Gunlugger or Faceless to fill that slot. If you do have a group with both a Battlebabe and one of these, they might be the most interesting as rivals or enemies, or with a strong difference in status – Maybe the Gunlugger or Touchstone is your mentor? Maybe you are the brain and the face and the Faceless is the meat, which would make a truely frightening duo.

Apocalypse World / Playbook focus: The Hardholder
« on: August 04, 2013, 02:25:46 PM »

There is no government, no society, in Apocalypse World. When hardholders
ruled whole continents, when they waged war on the other side of the world
instead of with the hold across the burn-flat, when their armies numbered
in the hundreds of thousands and they had fucking boats to hold their
airplanes on, that was the golden age of legend. Now, anyone with a
concrete compound and a gang of gunluggers can claim the title. What other
authority is there?

The Hardholder is a warlord ruling a local settlement of people. His biggest strength is his gang, a small army (as far as the post-apocalypse goes, it is an army) of armed people doing his bidding. His primary stat is Hard, and he gets two moves: Wealth, which brings him the profit of his hardhold on a good day, and the trouble and wants of his hardhold on a bad day, and Leadership, which is for leading his gang into battle. The Hardholder is one of the leader-type playbooks, who have people working for them. Leaders are good for generating interesting trouble and relationships, and makes a good center for the story in that other characters can work for them, or at least have to relate to their significant presence.

My take on it:
The Hardholder is all about owning it. The postapocalypse is an infected, frozen or burnt out wasteland, everything is scarcity, but what there is, you own it. And if you don't own it... Well, do you want it? Take it. You have the stats and manpower to back it up. It is not Sharp or Hot that's the hardholders primary stats, but Hard, and I love the Hardholder for it. This isn't the world where brilliant or suave men and women rise to power, but the world where determined ones do. That is not to say that hardholders are stupid, uncouth or brutish. They do not even have to be ruthless, but they have to be determined. They are the ones to make ugly choices concerning peoples survival without flinching, and then sticking to these choices. That's why they're hard.

I played Barnum the Hardholder, a burly guy maintaining a small hold of people and their workshop in the cold and wild pine forests. At night, he and his gang huddled up together to sleep to conserve warmth, so there was literally a lot of warmth coming from him, a kind of family man. But his hold needed him to be an authoritative father, or it would surely perish to the evil of the forests.

Or you can go all out the other way and play a cruel dictator, relish in your own power. I mean, who the fuck is going to stop you? In Apocalypse World, you are King. And there is certainly the lure of it! This is your chance to be autocratic, to come down hard on slights of your authority, to harshly punish transgressions of your law, to bully lesser holds into giving you what you want, and it's all justified because we live in a fucked up world. You can certainly use your character to play up and further the madness of the post-apocalypse. In one game, the Hardholde was a straight up warlord/dictator a la Idi Amin, as seen in Last King of Scotland, with his gang being his person cult. A friend of mine played in a game where the hold had a jeopardy wheel to determine punishment for crimes. Death, mutilation or a party! The fucking thing kept stopping on ”party” all the time, almost drove the hold to ruin...

Oh yeah, and don't think the hardholder is invincible, he certainly isn't. No other playbook has this much trouble and headache to deal with. The water is running out, food is running out, the hocus is turning people to his death-cult, his own gang is turning against him... You will need that +2hard stat. Fact of the matter is, almost all of the hardholders improvements are stat improvements.

Why the Hardholder is the best playbook to play:
You get to define the world! You decide what the hold looks like, how it works, what the people living in it are like. And the other characters will probably be living in your hold, (they absolutely should, if you ask me) and you can put them in positions of power, like the Battlebabe is your sheriff, or the Operator is your go-to-guy.  Also, your underlings will be a constant source of lovely drama, when there is stuff missing from the armory or when your trusted lieutenant joins the cult of your rival the hocus. And of course, the thrill of being the boss, telling people what to do and taking what you want from them.

What it brings to the world of the apocalypse:
The Hardholder brings scale to Apocalypse World. The map of your world will probably grow to encompass neighbouring holds and dangers, to put your hold in a relation to the surroundings. It also bring some sort of social awareness. People around you are not just NPCs anymore, they're a part of your hold. And for your hold to function and survive, people need to get along, be healthy and fed. Suddenly, threats are not just psychos with chainsaws, but also diseases or a broken water pump.

Fundamental scarcities of the Hardholder:
For the playbook to work, the MC needs to push for the problems and threats of the hold. Play the people in the hold like real people, not like mindless underlings. Bring morality and complex issues to the hardholder, use loyalty, disloyalty and other relationships to make the people working for the Hardholder become real people and not just resources. Being a Hardholder should be a double-edged sword: You have the most power, but also the most responsibility.

Moves and crap analysis:
The Hardholder is all about Fictional effectiveness as lumpley calls it. Play a hardholder and you won't get the most Mechanically effective and minmaxed character, but you'll get tons of possibility to influence the world, both in game prep and also through your actions. Every other character, if they do not work for the Hardholder, has to somehow relate to their presence in the world, they can't escape it.

The Hardholder has only two moves, Wealth (which is trouble as much as it is a blessing) and Leadership. Interesting thing about Wealth is that you do not get to save up the barter you earn between sessions, it resets everytime you make the roll. Kind of makes sense, as you are the bank –  Don't buy stuff, make people do it for you instead. If you want to play rich, play The Operator.

Leadership is an interesting move, in that it gives you hold to spend when your gang encounters a point that really puts their morale to the test. The rest of the time, they're assumed to do basically what you tell them to. This is important, and I'll tell you why: I was taking a nap a few days back, idly thinking about how I wanted to make this write-up. I have just started practicing zazen, zen meditation. Zazen is a very simple thing, you just sit and pay attention to your breath. It is simple, but not easy, because of course thoughts, tensions, emotions, and pain all come up and you have to deal with it. Well, Apocalypse World is kind of the same thing, as your character does whatever you say he or she does, and a good improv MC will go with whatever you say and ”Yes, and...” it. Basically, you could freeform it all. But when resistance comes up in the form of you fucking people up and they're resisting, or other people fucking you up and you're resisting, that's when you take out the rules and roll dice. Leadership exemplifies this well. Fiction dictates that your gang will do what you tell them to do and perform as can be expected by them, until they meet specific kinds of resistance, and thats when you need to spend hold to deal with it. It's very clear to me, I don't know if that makes sense to you guys, but there it is anyway. :)

As for other playbook moves, there are a lot of routes a Hardholder could take. He could go with NOT TO BE FUCKED WITH or Bloodcrazed from the gunlugger to become an even bigger force of power. He could take Fingers in every pie or Just give me a motive from Maestro D' to go more for a scheming route, or maybe as Barnum did, get Touched by Death or Infirmary from the Angel if he tries his best to take care of his subjects.

Apocalypse World / Songs, film clips and videos portraying playbooks?
« on: August 04, 2013, 11:39:45 AM »
On a local (swedish) roleplaying internet forum, I'm starting a series of features on the different playbooks of Apocalypse World. Short analysis of moves and crap, my take on them, what I feel they bring to the table, what I feel you need to consider when MC:ing them, and so on. I'm planning to attach one or two youtube links to songs, videos, movie clips etc to each to portray what I feel the playbook is all about.

Do you have any suggestions for good media? First up is the Hardholder and Battlebabe. For the Hardholder I got this so far:

For the Battlebabe, I'm not so sure. This, maybe?

My second question is, how do you feel about this idea? If there's an interest I'll write the series in english and post them on this board as well.

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