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Topics - John B.

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brainstorming & development / Idea for a mechanic: Multi-directional stats
« on: December 13, 2012, 06:53:39 PM »
Multi-directional stats isn't a very good name, I know, but here's an idea I had earlier today (I apologize if someone has already mentioned this before).

Awhile ago I realized that +1 is the "middle" of the stat range. At +1, you have more chance of getting a weak hit than anything else (16/36) and you have exactly the same chance of getting a miss or a strong hit (10/36 each). If you compare =0 to +2, and compare -1 to +3, they're also symmetrical, but inverted (e.g. +3 has the same odds of getting a strong hit that -1 has of getting a miss, etc.).

So that got me thinking that if you had two stats that were on a continuum where increasing one stat lowered the other, then you could use a single stat to represent both. The moves that reflect one "side" of the stat would be standard (i.e. 6- is a miss, 7-9 is a weak hit, and 10+ is a strong hit) and the moves that reflect the opposed side of the stat would be inverted (i.e. 6- is effectively a strong hit, 7-9 is still a weak hit and 10+ is a miss).

Then you could have that stat slide up and down to reflect where you are on the continuum. I have a couple ideas for how to use this, but I was wondering if anyone's already done this, and if so how it worked. I'm also wondering if I'm missing any obvious problems with doing something like that.

-John B.

So I have all of the extra playbooks for MotW that I'm aware of (except the Exile, and I'll submit a AP report of MotW when I get a chance to get that from Mike).

That's gotten me thinking about new playbooks that I'd like to see. The problem is that while I would normally love the challenge of making them myself, the sad fact is that with a recent job change, five kids, and a talent for procrastination, I know that I won't finish any of them anytime soon.

So, here's the deal: I will give any playbook I have in trade to anyone who creates a new playbook (either based on one of the below ideas or else another idea of your choosing), then posts it for discussion on this forum, and then makes revisions based on the feedback they get. Send me a write-up of the playbook (after at least one round of forum feedback and revision) and let me know which playbook you want in exchange.

Here are some playbooks I'd particularly like to see:
  • The Freak: (based loosely on Abe Sapien from Hellboy) - You don't remember what happened to you, or anything from before you awoke or were discovered the way you are now. The mystery of your transformation or origin drives you onward. Your form grants you some useful abilities (perhaps you have gills and can breathe under water, or perhaps an elongated skull and modified brain gives you telepathy), but it also alienates you from others until they get to know you well enough to look past your appearances. The truth of what happened to you is out there... (I'd like to see something like a mix between the Monstrous, though a little less physically powerful in general, combined with the social alienation move of the Summoned, and then add solving the mystery of your own origin into the improvement options, similar to the Wronged's quest for revenge.)
  • The Risen: (based loosely on the first Crow movie) - You were killed by monsters and, worse, others that you loves were murdered, too. Then you were given a chance to come back and exact your revenge. But it isn't free and your Guide watches you--sometimes helping and sometimes punishing you for straying from the path of righteous justice.  (I picture this as sort of a mash-up of a certain build of Monstrous combined with the Wronged--but with one or more Moves built around the Guide, whether a crow or some other form--possibly bearing some resemblance to the Spooky's dark side.)
  • The Escaped: You were a thrall of a monster for years. He used you, consumed your spirit, and left you a broken shell. The worst of it is that you loved him for it (part of you still does). Eventually you escaped or were freed or were discarded. When you look at yourself in the mirror, you don't recognize yourself anymore--you just see a hollowed-out shell. But you know the monsters from your time among them, and you use that knowledge now to hunt them down and kill them. Maybe you're looking to make them all pay for what was done to you. Or maybe it's all a desperate ploy to get his attention. Either way, you're good at what you do.
  • The Fugitive: Not all monsters look like monsters. Some explode or shrivel or vanish, but some leave human-looking corpses behind. So now they call you a mass murderer or a serial killer. Law Enforcement at every level have you on their Most Wanted lists. They're after you and they're looking to bring you in, dead or alive. You're going to take down as many monsters as you can before the cops catch up with you. (I'm picturing something similar to the Hard Case and Wronged, but with Moves relating to being hunted by the law--maybe beginning of mystery moves and/or regular moves and/or improvement(s) leading to a final showdown, like the Wronged's eventual chance to confront the one who wronged them. I also kind of like the idea of making a recurring NPC law enforcement character who makes their life difficult, though it's just a thought).

Anyway, if no one's interested, I'll eventually try to get around to making one or more of the above. But if someone would consider taking a crack at one of these (or any other playbook that interests you), I'd love to bribe you with playbook(s).

-John B.

brainstorming & development / Unknown Armies hack: Second try
« on: April 14, 2012, 02:45:52 AM »
I was working on an Unknown Armies hack a few months ago (previous threads are here: General notes, magick, & GM principles). Then I started my UA campaign before I'd gotten far enough along to use UA hack, so we're currently just playing UA straight (with some of the AW principles applied as GM techniques). It's a fun campaign, but it's also reminded me of why I wanted to do a hack in the first place: Basically, while the UA games I've played or run have been fun, they've been very different than the UA fiction. What I mean is that when read through the fiction in the UA core book and supplements, it just oozes with awesome flavor, then when I play UA, that flavor is mostly missing. Part of that, I'm sure, is how I'm GMing, but I think a lot of it is that while the system allows the kind of play that the fiction implies, it doesn't always support it well. Does that make sense? I'm not criticizing the system--like I said, it's been fun, but it hasn't been the UA game I wanted to play that first time I was reading through the UA core book and thinking how awesome it all sounded.

Okay, long rambling intro over... The reason I'm starting this up again is that I'm started over on a UA hack for AW.

What is the game about

I don't have more actual *W play under my belt then I did before (I've still only run single short Dungeon World Basic campaign and haven't played), but I've read a lot more. I've been following the DW Beta versions closely and I pre-ordered Monster of the Week and have devoured the beta versions. I've also been following Monsterhearts with interest and plan on buying it as soon as I can convince the wife (I've overspent my RPG budget considerably lately--damn Kickstarter...). Looking at those four games, as well as some of the hacks on this forum, like Saga of the Icelanders, I've gotten a lot better idea of how *W core system can be changed and hacked and distorted to get different effects.

So when I sat down again to try another UA hack, my first question was to ask what I wanted the game to be about. There are a lot of different games you can play within UA. So I went back and reread the fiction in UA 2nd ed. and the source books.

I think that I've settled on the idea that a character's obsession is what defines them. It's the foundation of their moves and of the advancements and of their choices.

In tandem with that, mystery and consequences define the stories that get told around those obsessions.


"You need to know more. The world you know isn't enough for you... Anything would be preferable to the ignorance of daily life."

You'll notice that "powers" wasn't one of of my core focuses. That's because at its best and most interesting, magick in UA is inextricably drawn from and tied to obsession. Obsession is the heart of power, and consequences come from power.

Two things have jumped out at me as I've started working on this again. The first is that Playbooks (and therefore character archetypes as well as moves) will be based on how they approach their obsession, how they're trying to get it. The second is that the "arc" of a character is about the nearly impossible search and struggle for their obsession.


Playbooks will be based on an approach to hunting their obsession. That they have an obsession, that it drives them into the Occult Underground, that it screws up their life, is all assumed (the same way that it is in UA). If you weren't obsessed, you wouldn't be a UA character.

Playbooks aren't based on powers or types (adept schools, avatars, etc.). Yeah, there will be a certain amount of overlap (I mean, someone who finds power and truth at the bottom of a bottle is approaching their obsession in a fundamentally different way than a True King).

Building on that, magick isn't based on schools or archetypes, per se. A character's magick (and they all have at least some magick, even if hardly any and tied to a -1 stat) comes out of their obsession. That said, playbooks moves that veer into the magickal will likely be heavily inspired by the coolest stuff from the UA adept schools and avatar paths.

I'll talk more about magick and other moves in later posts.


"Something big is going down. You don't know what. But you can feel it all around you. It's in the air, in the headlines of the newspapers, in the blurry images on television. It is a secret you have yet to grasp, although the first syllable has been spoken in a dream you cannot quite recall."

When I read the fiction in UA, the sense of mystery and and looking at the world through distorted, madness-tinted glasses is huge. Then the character types are laid out clearly. Like I said above, I know that UA can run games with that sense of mystery and unraveling, but it doesn't necessarily support it. Maybe it's just me or my GMing style, but I'm ultimately making this for myself anyway. I want the system to drive and support that feeling. I want it to be an emergent property of the moves and mechanics.

I'm tempted to say that game will be at the "street level" to use the UA term, but I don't know that it necessarily is. What I do know is that the world will always be weird and unknown. To some extent, the cosmology and "metaphysics" will be a lot less set -- like Monster of the Week, the cosmology is built up during play for that campaign by asking questions, by moves, by creating fronts, etc. The "canon" of UA will be stripped down to Principles, Moves, Threat Types, "rumors", etc. It will be a lot less defined.

And further, the moves (character and GM), plus the Principles, Fronts, etc., will have a lot of tie-ins to cosmology and mystery creation.

One of the specific things I'm thinking is that the game will be about mysteries. They'll be how the game is structured (in the way that AW has Fronts and Home, DW has dungeons/adventures, and MotW has Monsters/Mysteries). I'm not exactly sure what that looks like yet, though I have a number of half-formed ideas that I'll post as they become more worked out.

Basically, I'm picturing that mysteries can take various forms (depending on the Threat Types, campaign, and player characters). Whatever you're doing (looking for something or someone, trying to figure out who's screwing with you and why, trying to ascend or keep someone else from ascending, etc.) and whatever the reason you're doing it (you're in debt to TNI, it holds the key to your obsessions, you need something for you collection, you're a dead man or woman if you don't, etc.) -- it's structured as a mystery to be unraveled (and survived).


"People vanish, die horribly, become madmen, for the sake of whatever the secret is that lies at the heart of the unseen world."

It wouldn't be UA if it wasn't full of tough choices and consequences with bite. One thing that always does seem to work well when I play UA is that my players go further and cross lines they wouldn't in other games. I love that.

Part of it is hard-baked into the moves and already handled well by AW. Hard choices and consequences are included in the results of many player moves as well as GM moves. That's part of what I love about AW for a UA hack.

I'm also planning on keeping the spirit of the adept charging and avatar taboos (though not their details, in general) in the sense that magick ain't ever free. Hell, nothing's free, especially if it relates to your obsession.

Advancement and Harm

Drawing different pieces from various *W games that I've mentioned above, I'm planning on having basically long-term and short-term harm and advancement. There are the basic advances and the "uncertain future" advances after the first five advances (with the advanced advances having more character arc-related options). Then there is harm and madness (like failed notches in UA) for short-term harm, and Hardened notches (and psychoses and physical impairments) for lasting harm.


Advances will work similar to AW (though I haven't really thought much yet about how xp is earned). And like AW, there will be advances that you can take once you've taken a certain number of other advances. These "uncertain future" advances will have options for wrapping up the obsession and/or character arc (though, like AW, those aren't the only choices). I'm still playing with ideas, but I like the way that the "Wronged" playbook in MotW can spend an advance after their first five to make the next mystery be about the type of creature that killed their loved ones and that it will tie directly to their own personal tragic back-story. Using these advanced advances is a way to reach your obsession (or at least get a shot at it). This is how you have a shot at Ascending, etc.

Madness: Hardened

I love the UA madness meters, but I'm not going to try to port them directly. Instead, I'm going to separate out Hardened and Failed notches into separate systems. Failed notches (Madness--see below) are basically psychological Harm. Hardened notches, on the other hand (becoming increasingly hardened and inhuman until you're a sociopath) is a longer-term system. Basically I'm planning on porting the "Luck" mechanics from MotW, but changing the flavor a bit. For those of you who aren't familiar with MotW luck, basically you have a set number of points you can spend to change a roll to a 10+ or lower any Harm taken to 0. But once you use them, they're gone--meaning you have a set number (7 in MotW and I'll probably keep the same) for the entire campaign. There are a couple very limited ways to get a point or two back for some characters, but that's it. And when you run out, bad things happen. In MotW, the GM can make hard moves against you anytime--it's always a golden opportunity because you're out of luck--I don't know exactly what I'll do, but I'm leaning towards it marking the end of your character arc, meaning you have a session or two to wrap things up in a tragic way or perhaps you can change your playbook to "Broken" and start over or something. Also, like MotW Luck, many (but not all) playbooks have things that are tied to or triggered by Hardened getting spent and/or running out. I'm still working out details.

Basically, it will work mechanically like Luck, but in the fiction it's your character becoming hardened and inhuman and damaged -- it's the slow, character arc-level psychological damage.

Madness: Failed

In contrast, you can take psychological Harm as Madness. There are two Harm clocks or tracks: physical and madness.

I'm thinking that when madness builds (to 9:00 perhaps?) you have to take a Madness move (there are several to choose from). The madness move will have rules for when it's triggered, just like all moves. Part of the trigger will be "when your Harm is 6:00 or later (or some other level). If you clear your madness below that, the Madness move doesn't go away, but it's dormant (except under certain circumstances).

I'm not planning on having the 5 different meters an I'll have a single madness clock instead (though I'll use all five meters to draw examples of sources of Madness harm and amounts). I might conceivably use tags for the types, but only if I could think of some interesting thing to do with it that would make it more fun without increasing complication too much.


I'm uncertain how I want to handle harm. I want combat to be scary, like UA, though I don't necessarily need it to be deadly. I also want it to feel like wounds instead of numbers. I don't know that I want to just say that the GM keeps track of Harm (and perhaps Madness, too?) just because UA does. I'm thinking of doing something like wounds in the earlier beta versions of MotW, where each wound is a separate thing and the ratings correspond to the consequences, but there isn't a clock or track (i.e. 6 points of harm doesn't mean dead, necessarily). I also like some of the stuff Saga of the Icelanders does with harm and wounds and may combine it with the earlier MotW wounds system.


That's all I have time for tonight. This is already a very rambling post. Watch for more to come (though it will probably be erratic for the next while).

-John B.

(This is one of several topics about my Unknown Armies hack: See THIS TOPIC for general notes about this UA hack and THIS TOPIC for notes about Adept Magick.)

The GM's job in this Unknown Armies hack will be very similar to the MC's job in Apocalypse World. The style of GMing that AW uses is one of the biggest draws for me to do a UA hack into AW in the first place. There will be differences in flavor, of course (e.g. the gonzo weirdness of the UA setting replaces apocalyptica).

GMing Unknown Armies[/size/

Agenda & Always Say
The list for "Agenda" and "Always Say" for UA hack is identical to AW (except replacing "Apocalypse World" with "Unknown Armies", of course).

The Principles

The list of principles is also the same, except that Barf Forth Apocalyptica becomes something like Suffuse everything with the weird and occult (I'll word it better than that eventually).

GM's Moves

Again, for the most part the list  is the same as AW. I'm not sure if I need to create new moves for things like unnatural phenomena that come up  in UA, or whether those can just be easily folded into the existing GM moves with the Principles to guide flavor?

The 1st Session

The basic idea will be the same, though the Threats on the sheet (Hunger, Ignorance, Fear, etc.) will be re-skinned to fit UA (see below). I don't have much to say yet, but I'm putting it down as a reminder to myself to come back to this (and also to invite any suggestions or thoughts).


I think that the same basic idea applies, but again I might change the exact wording.

Fundamental Scarcity

UA isn't about scarcity like AW is, but obsession isn't that different from hunger or thirst in some ways (the motivation is different but the effect is similar). I'll need to change the name to something besides "Fundamental Scarcity"... maybe just "Theme" or something like that?

This list is a quick draft off the top of my head and almost certain to change:

  • Alienation
  • Decay
  • Perversion
  • Ignorance
  • Fear
  • Envy
  • Ambition
  • Cosmic/Transcendence
  • Obsession


The same basic principle as AW certainly applies, though I'll need to make a new list (even if some of the changes are cosmetic/flavor).

This is a first draft going through the AW list of threats and will likely change dramatically before the final version:

Boss (based on Warlord and part of Brute)
  • Cult leader (impulse: to own people)
  • Prophet (impulse: to overthrow the status quo)
  • Collector (impulse: to own)
  • Alpha wolf (impulse: to hunt and dominate)
  • Executive (impulse: to increase power and wealth)
  • Dictator (impulse: to control)
  • Glutton (impulse: craves satiety and plenty)
  • Pain addict (impulse: craves pain, its own or others)
  • Mindfucker (impulse: craves mastery)
  • Savage (impulse: craves freedom and mastery)
  • Godwalker (impulse: craves transcendence)
Society (partially based on Afflictions and partially on Brutes)
  • Law Enforcement (impulse: to restrict & punish transgression)
  • Mobs (impulse: to riot, burn, kill scapegoats)
  • Cults (impulse: to victimize & incorporate people)
  • Family (impulse: to close ranks, protect their own)
  • Movement (impulse: to identify and attack outsiders)
  • Violence (impulse: to justify and promote violence)
  • Social norms (impulse: to victimize anyone who stands out)
  • Everyday life (impulse: to dominate and restrict people's choices)
Locations (based on Landscapes)--I'll probably change the names of the below, but the impulses fit
  • Prison (impulse: to contain)
  • Breeding pit (impulse: to generate badness)
  • Furnace (impulse: to consume things)
  • Mirage (impulse: to entice and betray people)
  • Maze (impulse: to trap, to frustrate passage)
  • Fortress (impulse: to deny access)
The Unnatural (partially based on Afflictions)
  • Artifacts (impulse: to be desired and fought over)
  • Unnatural phenomena (impulse: to trigger obsession or fear)
  • Unnatural beings (impulse: to preserve own existence)
  • Demons (impulse: to lie and to get a body)
  • Invisible clergy (impulse: to manipulate events in their own image)

Agenda / Dark Future

Really the same as AW


Also the same as AW. I might tweak the list of stakes to stick to in the beginning, but I haven't thought about it much yet.


Again, same basic idea as AW. However, my gut feeling is that UA isn't quite as friendly as AW to the idea that every NPC is defined and you never deal with faceless transactions (e.g. in UA, you can and do go to the grocery store and buy food from faceless tellers that you don't interact with in any meaningful way. (In fact, I'm pondering a peripheral move that's like "Circles" in Burning Wheel, since the extended cast and the society around the PCs is so much more populous than AW.)

I think it might be part of the difference between the mundane world and the Occult Underground: in the underground everyone is an individual and there are no faceless interactions...

Overall Countdowns

I see Countdown clocks working exactly the same way in UA that they do in AW.


Creating and incorporating motifs into a campaign is a fun piece of advice in UA. Motifs aren't exactly in AW (though the advice about apocalyptica and asking questions about the Psychic Maelstrom and re-incorporating, etc., drive at a similar goal, I think).

This ties to the Suffuse everything with the weird and occult Principle. I like the tip in UA to create a list of Motifs that will be recurring elements in the setting.

Maybe these can be done spontaneously or built up through uses of the "Open Your Brain" move (which will be  tweaked and renamed, but work the same as it does in AW in general--see the first thread linked above). Or maybe as part of creating Fronts, each Front will have a couple Motifs attached to it (with the Home Front also having several Motifs).

However I do it, I'm planning on making the establishment and use of motifs a part of GMing this UA hack.


More to come later. I welcome any comments.

brainstorming & development / Unknown Armies: Adept Magick
« on: December 27, 2011, 02:47:57 PM »
This is for the same hack as THIS. I'm starting a new topic because that thread is already full of a bunch of really wordy posts and I wanted to pull magick out and discuss it separately.

I'm not going to repeat some of the basics I already mentioned in the other thread, so you should read that before reading this. The first and second posts have the stuff on magick, so you can read just those if you aren't interested in other UA hack related topics...

Magick Moves

First off, there will be four basic magick moves. Really, there are three magick moves, but the Creation adepts (mechanomancers and narco-alchemists) have a separate move instead of the three the other kinds of adepts have).

Every school (except the Creation schools) will have the first two options but only some will have Blasts. The Creation schools don't have blasts or formula spells. They always have their magick creation move and they might or might not have random spells.

  • Formula spells
  • Random spells
  • Blasts
  • Creation

Formula spells

These are the most predictable and familiar spells. They're probably what will be used most often by most adepts. These are selected at character creation (see below) and new formulas can be created and/or purchased later with advances.

Each formula spell you know will have a cost (sometimes multiple costs for different variations) and an effect that you can spend Charges on (similar to how you spend Hold). I'll talk more about formula spells and how they're set up later.

The move will be based on seize by force and will look something like this (this is a very rough draft with some placeholders that need to be filled in later):

When you cast a formula spell that you know, roll+weird. On a hit, you cast the spell successfully (spend the indicated charges), and choose options. On a 10+, pick 3. On a 7-9, pick 2:
  • there are no unintended minor unnatural phenomena
  • you don't suffer a minor backlash
  • unhardened witnesses freeze or run (GM's choice) at the unnatural display
  • you do not leave yourself vulnerable or draw unwanted attention
  • you succeed particularly well (I'll list some of the options from spell casting "cherries" from UA)
On a miss, either the spell fails (no charges are spent) or it succeeds and choose 2:
  • the spell costs double the regular charges
  • suffer a major backlash
  • significant unnatural phenomena occurs

The "backlash" and "unnatural phenomena" choices above aren't spelled out yet. Unnatural phenomena is basically handing the GM an unnatural move on a silver platter. Backlash is probably a list of choices based on the spell casting "sour cherries" list from UA. I need to flesh that list out.

Basically, if you get a minor hit (7-9), something bad is going to happen--either one consequence (vulnerable/unwanted attention, backlash, or minor unnatural phenomena), or two consequences if you want to go for a bonus (they freak out or you succeed strongly). If you get a strong hit (10+), you can either choose that nothing bad happens (which usually also means that you blocked your opponent's move, if applicable) or else you can go for bonuses at the cost of one or more consequences.

Random spells

Random spells are different from formula spells in two main ways: You make up an effect that fits within the random magickal domain of your school (which is more limited in many ways), and it's significantly harder and more prone to unnatural phenomena, even when successful.

I need to give some more guidance about what random spells can do. I also need to give some guidelines for how much charges they should cost. Like UA, this will be pretty flexible in what it can do (within the narrow confines of the school's random magick domain) and will tend to be more expensive than formula spells would be.

Again, this is a rough draft of the move and it may change:

When you cast a random spell, roll+weird. On a 10+, you cast the spell (spend charges), plus a minor unnatural phenomena occurs. On a 7-9, you cast the spell (spend charges), but also choose 2:
  • the unnatural phenomena is only minor instead of significant
  • you don't suffer a minor backlash
  • you do not leave yourself vulnerable or draw unwanted attention
On a miss, either the spell fails (no charges are spent) or it succeeds and choose 2:
  • the spell costs double the regular charges
  • suffer a major backlash
  • significant unnatural phenomena occurs


Blasts are a combat move; charges are spent, basically, to create a weapon with harm (and tags?). This move is usually used in place of seize by force, where the blast spell is your "force" and the consequences are expanded to include magickal mayhem. For situations outside of toe-to-toe combat (like using a blast spell to strike from ambush or to kill a tied-up and helpless target, etc., cast a formula spell and spend charges to determine the harm.

My current idea is that you use the seize by force move as written, with two differences:
  • spend charges to determine the harm (and tags?), and
  • on a failure, you suffer backlash or unnatural phenomena, in addition to whatever other moves the GM chooses to make.

I expect that I'll wind up writing a custom move to use, rather than modifying seize by force, but I'm running out of time and I'll have to come back to it.


I haven't really worked on this one as much and don't have a draft of a move yet. Mechanomancers make clockwork machines that have stats and moves of their own. Narco-alchemists imbue special magickal effects into drugs (which still have their innate effect). Any new "Creation" schools might do something similar but different.

It seems to me like you create a thing and then imbue something special into it (whether that's autonomous action, magickal effects if imbibed, etc.)

I'll have to flesh it out later.

Formula Spells

I'm out of time, so I'll make this my next reply.

brainstorming & development / Unknown Armies hack
« on: December 23, 2011, 02:43:06 PM »
I've been working on and off on a Wraith hack (here), but my group has been lukewarm to the idea so I've put it on the back-burner for the moment (it still interests me, but it's more work than I have time for if I'm not likely to use it). I'll likely come back to it at some point.

In the meantime, I've been reminded lately of how much I like the Unknown Armies setting. I like the UA system alright, but it's not my favorite and some of my players really hate percentile systems, so I've decided to take a shot at a UA hack for AW.

Playbooks & Character Creation

This is one of the first areas I looked at. I don't really want to make a separate playbook for each Adept School and each Avatar archetype plus enough mundane playbooks to allow that option, too. That would pretty quickly get to an insane number of playbooks.

I decided fairly early on to treat Avatars as "mini-playbooks" that have a few moves which each have prerequisites to take (and have to be taken in order). Basically, they are added on top of another playbook. I've also decided that adepts can become avatars (as per the normal rules) but I don't want any adepts to start as adept/avatar combos (it's a minor pet peeve of mine that I won't waste time explaining right now). Mundane playbooks will have enough free moves to take Avatar mini-playbooks at character creation, while adepts will have to pick them up during play if they want them.

That leaves adepts and mundanes (authentic thaumaturges are currently being treated as mundane playbooks who pick up some rituals, rather than being a separate playbook--that may change, though).

When I started looking at the Adept schools, I started seeing certain groupings of schools that had similar styles of paradoxes, taboos, and even magickal effects (btw, I'm not fond of the "k" on the end of magick in UA, but I'm using it since it is UA). I divided the core 12 schools into 5 categories. This is preliminary work to my work on streamlining the magick system without giving up the flavor or UA (i.e. I don't want to make Mage the Awakening or Ars Magica in the Occult Underground... though I like both of those games for themselves).

Then I thought about playbooks for mundanes and with a little tinkering and a few stretches (but none too much of a stretch in my opinion) I came up with five mundane playbooks that roughly matched up to the five styles of adept schools. Later on I added "Innocent" as a playbook, which doesn't have an adept parallel.

I may wind up doing something totally different, but here's the current table.

AcquisitionInvestigator (hunting down people, things, ideas, or events)Bibliomancy, Plutomancy (gaining power from their collection, but being unable to enjoy their collection normally)
ControlFighter (control through personal strength)Dipsomancy, Entropomancy, Epideromancy (gaining control by giving up control and/or strengthening themselves by weakening themselves)
CreationGenius (invention and creation)Mechanomancy, Narco-Alchemy (gonzo creations at the cost of rejecting mainstream alternatives)
HierarchyAlpha (a leader with the resources of a group)Cliomancy, Urbanomancy, Videomancy (understanding and exploiting social patterns at the cost of being tied to their obsession)
ManipulationPlayer (working their gigs, whether schemes or suckers)Personomancy, Pornomancy (exploiting human interactions at the cost of being cut off from the related authentic interactions)
VulnerabilityInnocent (when belief is power, naïveté is both power and vulnerability)--


I'm going to use the AW stats. I may rename Weird. Whether I rename it or not, it will mean something different--it's a mixture of noticing weird stuff (like synchronicity, portents, coincidences, the unnatural, etc.) and the paradoxical, gonzo thinking at the heart of UA magick, whether adepts or avatars. And like AW, there's a "downward slope" in the stats, where there are a lot of moves that shift moves towards Weird and the game strongly encourages Weird to be used--the game will have the equivalent of "barf forth apocalyptica" principle about throwing in the weird, gonzo conspiracies, mysticism, and general weirdness of the Occult Underground...

Starting Stats

There will be four choices of stat spreads (like AW) per "theme" (meaning that an Investigator and a Bibliomancer, for example, will have the same four choices).

Mundane Playbooks: Starting Moves and Crap

Each mundane playbook will have some choices of playbook-specific moves and crap. They will also all get one or more "general" moves (see below).

Also, moves that give bonuses to stats (e.g. +1hard) will either be completely restricted to mundane playbooks or at least more common for mundanes. The general idea is that adepts can be good at non-magickal stuff, but mundanes are usually a little bit better (since they're less obsessed and narrow in their world views). 'Course, they don't have magick, so...

Adept Playbooks: Moves, Magick, and Crap

Each theme of adept will have guidelines for creating a school. The twelve core schools are all examples. (The assumption is that you'll use one of the 12, but since I'm doing all the deconstruction anyway, making guidelines for making new is easy enough).

Each theme has a general style of taboo (e.g. "Control" adepts can't give up their special source of "control", whether that means never getting sober, never letting another alter their body, or never letting another take the risk instead of them). They also have guidelines for creating their Charging move (e.g. "Acquisition" adepts get charges from adding to their collection/stash--which I'm currently planning on handling similar to either AW Operator gigs or the Surplus/Want moves of AW Hardholders, Hocuses, etc.). There's more to how schools and magick will be handled, but it's still in the brainstorming phase. there are some notes below, but it's still early on in the process.

Adepts will also get a very limited number of non-magickal moves. These will probably be either from the general moves list (see below) or from the corresponding mundane playbooks list (e.g. a Dipsomancer can pick a Fighter move). Regardless, they will have less non-magickal moves than mundane playbooks.

General Moves and "Qualities"

I'm planning on creating a list of "general moves". Each playbook will have a certain number of "general moves" that they can select from this list, plus advances can be spent here.

Most (if not all) of these moves will have a "quality" attached (I'm not set on that name and will probably change it). The quality isn't a prerequisite, but if you take the move then that quality becomes attached to your character. There will be a space near to top of the sheet where all of your qualities are listed (your Obsession is likely in that box, too).

Qualities can be affiliation with a broad group (e.g., "criminal", "police", "politics", "truckers"), specific group ("TNI", "Mak Attax", etc.). They can be personality qualities ("violent", "coward", "loner", etc.). they can be interests ("occult", "cats", "conspiracies"). They can be themes/sets of imagery or concepts ("chaos theory", "tarot", "astrology", "purifying fire", etc.) Probably a lot of other stuff, too.

The qualities sometimes also narrow down the general move--e.g. there could be a general move about how you know tons of trivia and facts about a topic that adds a question to the "Read" moves (like "How does [topic] relate to this situation?) You have to tie it to a quality. So if you pick "Conspiracies", then you can be prompting the GM to make everything tied to some nut job conspiracy by asking questions about it, but you couldn't ask about occult or criminal groups or political connections.

This is still a pretty hazy idea at this point and I may cut it in favor of only having playbooks moves, but I like the idea of general moves and qualities.

At first I leaned away from general moves because it was different than how AW does it and also because it moves away from the AW idea that everything you need to make a character is right on your character sheet.

Still, I'm leaning towards doing it for two main reasons: 1) Even though it's still only half-baked, I really like the idea of characters having qualities added to them, and 2) UA is in the modern world and characters are less... focused. There's more room for cross-over and broad interests. It makes the character feel more like people (albeit, obsessed and weird people) who get involved in the Occult Underground.

Also, enough other games have lists like this that I'm not worried in general about the players having to reference something off their character sheet.

Note that some moves are restricted to playbook moves. Stat bonus moves are only in playbooks. Certain iconic/niche moves are limited to playbooks (e.g. only leaders get to start with groups like Hardholders, Choppers or Hocuses in AW).

Generally speaking, general moves are about affiliations and interests and making your character more idiosyncratic, while playbook moves are about being really good at your shtick.

More to Come

But I really appreciate any thoughts, criticisms, or suggestions on what I have so far…

I loved Wraith: The Oblivion when it came out and it still has a special place in my gamer heart, so I was intrigued by the Necrology hack by fnord3125 (Brian Peters) and read through all of the posts yesterday. It's rekindled my interest in running a Wraith campaign and I think that Apocalypse World would work well for the type of stories I want to do with Wraith these days.

Fnord3125 mentions in his hack that he chose to focus on the interactions with the living world and so chose to cut a lot of the Wraith politics, etc. I really like the direction he's going, but it got me thinking about running a Wraith campaign in the opposite direction: Instead of focusing on Wraith as a way to tell ghost stories, I want to use the Wraith setting for a dark, fantastic quasi-"post apocalyptic" game (with your own death being the "apocalypse" and the necropoli, Shadowlands, Tempest, etc. being the fucked-up post-apoc world you're in now). Really, it's the setting (especially the Tempest, Labyrinth, Oblivion, Malfeans, etc., plus the epic scope of some of the storylines) that really grabbed me. Though (like Necrology), I'm planning on lessening or cutting the influence of Stygia and the Hierarchy because I want it to be more local and about the characters in the campaign...

In many ways I'm keeping it very close to Apocalypse World--even keeping many of the same playbooks with cosmetic re-skinning. There's also a lot of great stuff in Necrology that I plan on stealing liberally (with grateful acknowledgements to fnord3125).

I'll be adding more posts soon as I continue to work on this. I just started thinking about it yesterday and am still in early phases.

Also, I admit that I may not ever finish this. I'm in the middle of another campaign right now and haven't run the idea by my players yet. We've only played one Wraith game. It was a smaller story arc within a larger Changeling campaign. It's still talked about fondly over a decade later, but it's also made the group nervous about ever playing Wraith again since I went straight for the jugular--it was a classic "underworld descent" right before the climax of a long, epic campaign and I made it very dark and intense (even for Wraith)...

-John B.

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