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Topics - jadanol

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Monsterhearts / The Reaper: New Skin
« on: December 21, 2012, 05:09:23 AM »
Here's my new Skin for the icy cold hand of Death, a character with an important job, lots of power, and a nagging question of individual significance. I'd love to hear what you think of the idea and its implementation. May format this later.

Monsterhearts / Vampires VS Werewolves
« on: December 16, 2012, 01:02:53 PM »
Has anyone else noticed an interesting dynamic to the Werewolf and Vampire? Obviously, these are the two defining monster types in supernatural teen drama, but it seems like, as presented here, they are both after the same thing--dominance over others in relationships. The only difference is that the Vampire uses emotions and manipulation to gain dominance, while the Werewolf uses violence and physical action.

It seems as though in a game with both a Vampire PC and a Werewolf PC, they would be bent towards a major conflict or feud with one another. I haven’t seen them in action, though; would anyone care to recount their experiences with these two skins interacting? Of particular interest to me would be hearing if anyone has played a game in which the Vampire and Werewolf were intertwined.

(As a side note, I think these personality types show up repeatedly in conflict with one another in teen dramas, even if they are not explicitly made into vampires or werewolves. For example, in Buffy, Angel acts like the Vampire and is forever in conflict with Spike, who acts like the Werewolf).

blood & guts / Player Types (long, long long...)
« on: December 10, 2012, 01:04:07 AM »
Vx, the old Savvyhead, worked in his space with many different purposes in mind. Each playbook Is extremely bold in its flavor, style, and effectiveness, and is quite distinct from the others. Each playbook chosen changes the game. So it is surprising that I have rarely seen any player delay in choosing their playbook. There always seems to be a uniquely obvious answer. I think this is because each playbook was designed to appeal to a certain type of player. However, the ol’ mind controlling trickster he is (actually, maybe he’s more Brainer than Savvyhead…), the game also plays with this expectation of what playing that book will be like such that, in play, the experience is slightly twisted. Let me try to show you what I mean…

The Angel is the most heroic of all playbooks by default, but nothing in Apocalypse World is pure. The Angel has a discerning eye and is likely no idealist, yet still the one who comes rushing to the rescue. If the Angel were in an old western flick, he’d be played be Clint Eastwood; helping others because it needs doing and because it’s what he does, all while squinting skeptically. A player who enjoys the moral high ground will find the Angel irresistible, but, unfortunately, being a savior in Apocalypse World is always an uphill battle.

There is a type of player to whom style trumps all else. This is the player who wants their character to succeed, sure, but if they look like a chump while succeeding, then what’s the point? They love form over function and would rather have everyone at the table think their character is a badass (or, if that’s not possible, have everyone at the table talking about their character regardless) than actually play a character whose Badass stat is factually higher than anyone else's. They are drawn to the Battlebabe (but then again, isn’t fatal attraction what the Battlebabe is all about?) A word of caution to this tale; you cannot always have your cake and eat it, too. You might be James Bond, but Apocalypse World is not a popcorn action flick. This used to be me, and I started to change shortly after the first time I played Apocalypse World years ago when it first came out (I played a Battlebabe, naturally).

I don’t think I can point to any character outside of Apocalypse World that is undeniably, exactly a Brainer. The Brainer is extremely stylized and in tune with what sets this game’s color and world apart from everything else. Being the Brainer is embracing and being empowered by the dirty, painful,  cool, hard, hot, sharp, Weird, wanting desperation of it all. Everyone who loves Apocalypse World itself as a whole should be a Brainer at least once. Every playbook seems to have a catch of “being nice and generous won’t be as easy as you think”, but the Brainer seems to turn that idea on its head. Being an emotionless, sadistic, creepy, psychic vampire won’t be as easy as you think, because in this game you are only allowed to play as human, no matter how weird (Marmots in the audience notwithstanding).

The Chopper is so damn tough and almost a stereotype of badassness. Their crew are violent, dishonest savages that are only kept in line through violence, and yet they are kindred spirits all the way, every last soul. They’re a family above all else; but not like, thanksgiving dinner, more like wolves fighting over the last scrap that they worked in perfect unison to hunt down and kill. Play the Chopper long enough, and it all turns into Bikerhearts drama. Some might play the Chopper because having a gang sounds more badass than just being a lone guy lugging a single, fuck off big gun. Others, however, will find a more ephemeral attraction to the idea of gruff, fatherly love. In sharp contrast to the Hardholder, the Chopper doesn’t give a fuck about everyone’s safety; just me and mine. Sadly, the Gang might not share those feelings for long. Or maybe they’ll open their Christmas presents early and realize, shit, you didn’t hide them because you’re an asshole, you hid them because if you see them early, it ruins everything for everybody forever.

Everything here is oppressive. Everyone is trapped by want. I think every player has (or should have) a moment in an RPG where they say “fuck this” and dive headfirst into what was never intended but suddenly makes so much sense; that moment when you choose the very dangerous third option of the sadistic choice. This is what Drivers were meant to do. By their very existence, Apocalypse World suddenly becomes a much bigger place and adds “peel out” as an option in every situation. But like the Lich’s Phylactery, the Driver’s car is everything they have, and they become shackled to it and ruled by it. Gas in the tank? Cool. Cracked windshield? It’ll keep for now. Tires? Fuck… Where the hell do you get fresh, punctured tires in the wasteland?

Again and again, I have seen new players who had never played RPGs or knew what Apocalypse World was choose the Gunlugger. I think it is right that they should do so, and I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with that choice for anyone. The Gunlugger isn’t complicated, but isn’t stupid either. The Gunlugger has more potential for survival than any other playbook; conversely, their enemies have no such potential. So, whether you want to break shit, not get broken, or just keep your options open, it works. However, every time I have seen a Gunlugger enter play, they have not remained uncomplicated for long. The old secrets start to come out, or they get pulled into other people’s struggles until it gets personal. And that is the catch here.

The Apocalyptic World is just a problem that needs solving. And solving it will take a lot of resources. In some ways, the Hardholder is a reversal of the Angel; the Hardholder does violent, messy things for a greater good (stability), as opposed to the Angel just doing what needs to be done right now to keep things going.  In the world of want, the Hardholder has the most, but also wants the most, as their little safe haven hardhold probably can’t last forever, especially with shortsighted gunluggers wanting to topple their throne all the time. I don’t think someone playing the Hardholder necessarily wants to control the game, but I think they often want to feel like their character can do something about the capital B capital P Big Problems. Unfortunately, making people safe through violence, guns, and gangs is like fighting fire with fire until the whole world burns.

The Hocus is a bit troubling. Undeniably Weird. Manipulative, controlling. Gets dander up, causes chaos, burns down the established structures, even though they were all burned down a long, long time ago already. And yet, people are still drawn to them, because they bring hope. However, hope is not their focus (that honor goes to the Touchstone, which I believe, Mr. Baker mentioned creating specifically because the Hocus did not add up to Book) . Hope causes fervor and passion, and it is the Passion and Fervor that the Hocus really lives for. I will admit, I had trouble figuring out who this type of character would appeal to, probably because I have never seen someone play it before. Sometimes it has been a second choice but never the ultimate decision. I could use some help and insight here, guys, if you have it to spare. I suspect that the Hocus would appeal to someone who wanted to be a mover and shaker in the game; someone who wanted to create in-game problems specifically in order to allow others to solve them and have those problems ultimately prove beneficial. I also suspect that some Hocus characters might want the same security through strength that is the hallmark of the Harholder, with the difference being that strength is the Hardholder’s Strength, whereas Weirdness is the Hocus’s Strength.

Many players avoid trouble when they can, because they know that the GM/MC/etc. will always have more trouble to throw at them. However, there is a rare type, whose fellows often find them quite annoying, who welcomes the chaos and adversity, because they have realized that this is where the real fun of things is and that without it, there would be no game at all. The Operator is for them. And it is a smooth operator, but not in the way you might think; when it comes to master manipulators, Skinners do it better. What Operators do is run headfirst into the fire and dare it to burn them, and they often come out unscathed, but not only, and that makes it all the better. If you watch Star Wars and think “I want to be a cocky, competent badass who does what he wants like Han Solo”, this playbook will likely disappoint you. If you watch Star Wars and think “Oh my gosh! I can’t believe that happened, even if it was his own fault! How the hell is Han gonna get out of this one (because he does always get out of it, right?)”, this playbook is a perfect fit. However, the joke here is that, in Apocalypse World, no matter how many times you pull it all out of the fire, there is no guarantee that you will always be able to. Sometimes the Operator’s Ungiven Future really is to change playbooks to “pile of smelly ashes.” This is the type of player that I have become.

When I first heard about the Savvyhead, I didn’t get it. “Hey just fixes things?” Then I looked at the moves and noticed how, more so than any other playbook, the Savvyhead has really good options for understanding and discovering things about the world around them. They do not have many ways to put this knowledge to practical use, other than to advise other characters. The MC book states how the Savvyhead is good for players who want to be cool and awesome, but be more supportive of others than movers and shakers themselves. Savvyheads are really good and fixing and building shit, but I don’t think it’s what they are really about at their core (that’s what the Angel is really about at its core). I think the Savvyhead is the playbook for the explorer who wants to search every hidden cranny of the Apocalypse World. Of course, nobody can be set apart from all this; in Apocalypse World, you are what you do, and, thus, inaction is death. Or, at the very least, inaction is a golden opportunity for a very hard move.

Being sought after. Attention isn’t enough. Attention is meaningless really, when what you really want is for people to need you around. There isn’t much about the Skinner that is practical, yet the Skinner can get everyone wanting them regardless. This says a lot about the unwritten setting of Apocalypse World; beauty is so much more beautiful when everything else is shit. There are players who go against the grain and try to be snowflakes, and, contrary to their naysays, they don’t do it to be contrary or break the game, but because they find a mutually enriching power in defying expectation. Set up pins and knock them down. This is a world of utter decay and all beauty has been lost; it is the instinct of most storytellers, to add after hearing that, “except for one last thing that is beautiful...” Unfortunately for the idealist preserver, Apocalypse World seems designed to erode beauty over time; eventually every Skinner will be killed, shattered, crippled, broken, disfigured, change playbooks, use their hair and makeup kid, have their special pet killed, lose their tools. Unless…

And in that unless is the power of the game. Play to find out what happens.

What are your thoughts? Agree, disagree? Who else might these playbooks apply to? What specific parts (mechanics, blurbs, pictures, etc) of each ‘book support or advertise certain types of play? Have there been any times you have expected a playbook to be one thing, then found it to be another in use? Do you think it is possible to create a unique cocktail of weird play experience by combining certain unexpected playbooks In a group?

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