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Topics - Christopher Weeks

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brainstorming & development / LEGO World
« on: December 15, 2011, 05:00:30 PM »
This is what I started with:
I’ve got a whole mess of LEGO and I want to play a story-ish/miniatures-ish game with them and my kids.  There are characters.  Players take turns.  Because it’s based on LEGO, it must be, to some large extent, *about* building. 

It’s a dawn of time, accelerated civilization type game in which characters develop technologies for improving the world and expanding what can be done.

I want a character to be able to pioneer a new technology, perhaps profit from it and commit it to the public domain, recouping some kind of investment when they do that last bit.  I think that any character can know only one technology that isn’t in the public domain.  They can hold it as long as they want

I need a short list of basic moves that represent the action of a single turn.  Characters can buy custom moves, too.  Every move has three states: failure, partial success and full success.

The game is played on a ‘map’ where players and neighbors all live.

This is what I came up with as a first draft:


Each player has a cup or sack or pile (or something!) with colored 1x1s of some kind.  The cup starts with four success tokens (green?) and eleven failure tokens (red?).  To determine and outcome for many kinds of challenges, the player draws out two tokens.  Two red indicate failure.  Two green indicate full success.  One of each indicates partial success.  Discard the tokens drawn into the general supply.  After the discard, if there are more than five tokens in the cup, add one success token.  Occasionally a move will call for you to use the cup of tokens in other ways.  Any time there aren’t enough tokens for a draw, add the starting complement (4 green and 11 red, by default) to whatever is there before you draw.

Your character

You’ll want to record some things about your character on a sheet of paper.  Their name, the attributes of their shelter, some pools of points, secret technology and experience advances, at the least.


Neighbors are humans who live in the vicinity of the players as represented by their position on the map.  They might be great friends, terrible enemies or something in between.  Here are the relationship options for how they might feel about you: blood enemies, rivals, dislike, indifferent, interest, like, friend

Environmental Moves

After each turn (where every player gets a ‘go’), draw a card and do what it says.  When the cards run out, shuffle them into a new deck.  When newly developed technologies suggest new cards that should be added or that old cards should be removed, do alter the deck when all players agree.  The deck starts with the following environmental moves that affect each player.  Whenever you do this, however the events turn out, make up a little story about what’s going on.

Assuage your hunger – eat four pieces of food (take them from your personal food supply and put them back into the game’s supply) if you can.  For each piece of food fewer than four that you eat, add a failure token to your cup.  Add success tokens to your cup equal to the number of colors of food that you eat minus one.

Weather a storm – If you are living in shelter that has room for you to sleep and also has the +stormworthy tag, it’s all good.  Otherwise, reduce the success level of your next move by one.  If you draw a natural failure, it doesn’t get any worse, but don’t discard the tokens, just put them back in the cup.

Encounter a new neighbor – Someone new is living in the neighborhood.  Whoever is doing worst or if you’re about the same, whoever wants to, should grab a minifig, pick a name, write it on the neighbor-list and put them on the map wherever they want to.  Everyone who lives close to the new neighbor should draw.  On a failure, the neighbor thinks you’re a rival.  On a partial success you are met with indifference.  On a full success, they like you.  Keep track of the neighbor’s attitudes on the neighbor-list too.

Lucky strike – add a point of luck to your luck pool.  You may optionally spend your luck pool to draw that many tokens from your cup.  If you draw any success tokens, you found something special.  Take a LEGO element from the supply that can represent something that you could find (naturally occurring or an artifact within the scope of the technology of the game) and give it to your character.  Make up a little story about how you came by it.

Spoilage – discard half, rounded up of each color of food in your supply.  If your shelter has the +goodStorage tag, round down, instead.

Rumors – people are whispering deceitful things about one another.  Choose two neighbors (or fewer if there aren’t two) and reduce your standing with them by one space each.

Theft – ?

Player Moves

Technologies will add to the list of public moves as they enter the public domain.  But to begin with, everyone has access to the following moves:

Elaborate the environment – When you name a thing that you want to add to the map; a natural feature or an artifact appropriate to the technology of the game, if no other player comes up with a convincing argument for why it shouldn’t be there, build the item out of LEGO and place it on the map.

Gather food – When you spend some time gathering food, draw.  On a failure, no food is found.  On a partial success, gather one of your choice and on a full success, gather three: yellow food (grain), green food (vegetables), white food (tubers), red food (varmints) or blue food (fruit)

Hunt – When you go out hunting, choose the size of the animal you’re after (up to eight) by naming the number of red food (meat pieces) it will yield if killed and draw.  On a failure, you’re injured; add a number of failure tokens to your cup equal to the size of the animal.  On a partial success, you don’t bag the animal, but you did learn about their habits and if you hunt the same animal on your next turn, increase your drawn success rating by one.  On a full success, add the meat you get to your personal food supply.

Find Shelter – When you search the natural landscape for improved lodging options, draw.  Add a number of points to your local-area knowledge pool equal to the number of success tokens you drew (0-2).  You may now spend points from your local-area knowledge pool to find a place to live, spending the points on the following at a cost of one each: room for one person to sleep, +stormworthy, +comfortable, +goodStorage, etc.

Make friends – When you choose a neighbor and give them a gift, if the other players agree that it’s a decent gift, improve your relations with that neighbor by one position.  If the other players agree that it’s a great gift, improve it by two.

Make an offering to the spirits – When you give the spirits a ceremonial gift, if the other players agree that it’s a decent gift, add two success tokens or remove two failure tokens from your cup.  If the other players agree that it’s a great gift, do both: add two successes and remove two failures!

Gather samples – when you spend your action at some physical location on the map, gathering samples of stuff; trying to take a part of what makes that place interesting back to your shelter, draw.  On a partial success, the player to your left decides what you take home and on a full success, you decide.

Study – when you consume some physical thing that you have in your possession – studying and trying to elaborate uses for it, draw.  Record the thing that you’re studying and the number of success tokens that you drew as research points.  You can spend those research points to invent new technologies that work with the item or material you were studying.  A new technology costs a number of these points equal to the number of technologies already in the world that are based on this same item or material.  Spend the point(s) and work up a move with your fellow players to represent what you want.  Make sure everyone thinks it’s cool.  You are the only person who knows how to perform this action right now, but you may only know one secret technology at a time.

Make your knowledge public – When you tell everyone about your secret technology, it is no longer your secret move and anyone may engage in the process that represents.  Mark an experience point.


In the beginning, the characters are all the same – stone-age mooks out to survive the harsh reality.  But the world will grow and times will change.  So can your characters.  You’ll do this by earning, collecting and then spending experience points. 

You earn these points by increasing the knowledge in the world.  Gather stuff, study it, develop new technologies and make your knowledge public.  It’s time-consuming but that’s the path to personal development.

When you start the game, you have a single bubble on your experience track.  That means that you’ll earn an advance as soon as you get your first experience point.  When that happens, your character will improve in some way – it could be pretty much anything, but might include bonus effects to certain moves, new custom moves that only that character have, special items, changes to the ways the basic rules work for that character, etc.  Pretty much anything could happen.  When you fill your experience bubble(s), you tell the other player(s) what kind of ability or improvement you’d like to develop and they work something up that’s along the lines of what you’re after.  This way, we know it’s OK with the other players.  And they’ll offer it to you as an option.  Assuming you like it well enough, write it down on your character sheet.  Now you all decide how many experience bubbles your advance is worth – you’ll add that many to your experience bubble line and it will take correspondingly longer to gain your next advance.  The standards for this will vary from game to game, but I think a simple mod like when you refill your cup, add an extra success token would be only one bubble.  More powerful or game-changing advances would cost more.  Make sure you all agree before moving on – each person should be content that the costs are reasonable and in keeping with previously established bubble-costs.

Apocalypse World / The end of the world?
« on: October 25, 2011, 11:29:30 AM »
Has anyone had their AW game slip bad-ward and end up with the world being destroyed or rendered truly uninhabitable?  How'd that work?

Apocalypse World / What's a "charged interaction?"
« on: October 19, 2011, 05:02:12 PM »
I see players wanting to read people here and there when the interaction doesn't seem charged.  What do you think a charged interaction is?

Murderous Ghosts / Two more PBP games
« on: October 15, 2011, 08:31:13 PM »
I know that the playtest period is over, but I figured I'd link and talk about these anyway.  I MCed (am MCing) both of these games.  

The first one just ended with the player's death.  I think I was playing a little fast and loose with what "ghost" means.  Either that's OK or you should define more about these ghosts, I think.  You do a lot of that in this version compared to last and I love it, but maybe more yet -- like in the intro material.  This player also didn't always answer my questions.  I think that's largely an artifact of PBP; I didn't want to spend time drawing attention to it and bugging him for answers.  In retrospect, it made the game seem kind of mechanical.  (Long ago, I was one of many (I think) who talked about that as a problem with IaWA and you helped straighten out how to play.  If you have tricks for making that natural here, they might be valuable.)  

As I mentioned in an email to you, I really like p17.  And also, the series of 6, 8, 10, 14 & 16 as builders of character.

The second game is still going though I thought the player had a good chance of falling into the death spiral on the last turn.  We recently encountered a situation where the player had already narrated trying to run back the way he came and then I sent him to 42 and on his high hand, he had to pick something bad, but one of the options was running back the way he terrible!  I narrated his escape and some prolonged running and getting turned around a little to help frame it as a bad thing, but I'm not really sure how much we're supposed to do like that.  I guess it's OK as long as it keeps working.  :)

It's a fun little game.

Murderous Ghosts / My second PBP game
« on: October 05, 2011, 02:52:00 PM »
The other PBP game that I'm playing is here, but we aren't yet done.

I'm running this one.  What if the player wants to ditch out back into the sewer tunnels?

Murderous Ghosts / our first PBP game has ended (in bloody, bloody death)
« on: October 05, 2011, 12:31:57 PM »
I played with Marshall Miller.  You can read it play by play (with very few whispers hidden from you) here.  We took almost exactly 23 hours.

I think our only questions before play had to do with adapting to PBP and stuff like whether suits mattered.  (I thought they didn't because it's almost true.)

There are some places where it's not crystal clear whether the person reading is supposed to turn to page x or tell their fellow to do that.  I didn't realize until having played for a while that the player could just opt out.  We had the thing happen where the scene wasn't suggestive of betrayal, cruelty, madness, etc. so we had to go back and strengthen the narration.  I think the first third of the game we were getting up to speed and then we pretty much knew what we were doing.

Murderous Ghosts / Is this thing on?
« on: October 04, 2011, 11:51:44 AM »
Should we be posting here?

I'm starting up two games of PBP at Snail's Pace.  For that purpose, I created a deck in Google Docs.  You can see it here

Apocalypse World / Help me with the Witch's special...
« on: September 29, 2011, 01:22:40 PM »
I'm working up a Witch playbook.  It's gone through a whole shit-load of revisions based on comments that I've gotten.  There are now only a couple of things that I'm unsure about and the one that I'd like to put before you now is the witch's sex/special move.  Here's how I have it currently written:

If you and another character have sex, you and they barter with bits of your souls. Roll+weird; you swap one of your moves for one of theirs.  On a 10+ you choose both moves.  On a 7-9, you and they each choose which move to give up.  On a 6- your partner chooses both moves.  If your partner is a NPC, the MC can tell you what his special moves are; if they have none, you gain +1 ongoing to one of the basic moves.  The MC will have to figure out how NPCs change with new moves and what lost basics look like.

This has prompted some commentary from the folks to whom I've shown it.

Is it too risky to ever be used?

Is it too complicated?  Like, do you see how it works?

Is it too mechanical?

Is changing another character's move permanently too powerful?

Do you, upon reading this, think the player can lose basic moves with it?  What does the possibility of losing basic moves mean to you?  

Is there a more elegant wording that leads to the same results?

Anything else?

the nerve core / Apocalypse World's binding
« on: May 29, 2011, 12:05:33 PM »
Hey, my page 137/138 just popped out of my book.  I'm tying to figure out how it's bound in case that informs how I should repair it.  It looks like the pages are magically adhered to one another and to a piece of cardboard.  I'm leaning toward just scotch-taping that page to the adjacent ones down as close to the binding as I can get -- and keeping my fingers crossed.

Any opinions?

Apocalypse World / The weight of rolls?
« on: May 16, 2011, 02:19:29 PM »
I think I've noticed a thing in more than one AW game.  It's this thing where a 12 is "better" than a 10 and a 2 is "worse" than a 6.  And no one is doing it always, but it feels like a trend.  I don't even know if anyone is aware of it.

Have you seen or felt this?

Apocalypse World / different advanced improvements?
« on: April 18, 2011, 01:16:39 PM »
I'm just fishing for opinions.  The list of advanced improvements is the same on all the playbooks, right?  Why is that?  Would it be a problem to make one with different advanced options?

Apocalypse World / MC, ever have trouble being a fan of a PC?
« on: March 14, 2011, 09:48:22 AM »
I just MC'd my second session yesterday.  It remains fun.  I've identified some things I'm not doing well and need to -- most especially, I need to work on PC-NPC-PC triangles.

But the thing that's nagging at me is how to be fans of the PCs when they seem to be playing antagonists.  Has this been a problem for anyone else? 

Apocalypse World / How do you limit An Arresting Skinner?
« on: February 04, 2011, 05:10:11 PM »
This thread was OK.  But I want some specific examples.

How have you limited or seen limited this Skinner move?

when you remove a piece of clothing, your own or someone else’s, no one who can see you can do anything but watch. You command their absolute attention. If you choose, you can exempt individual people, by name

(Also, is it psychic mind control or just being hot-hot?)

Apocalypse World / change your character to a new type
« on: January 17, 2011, 01:39:21 PM »
I'm finding that the rules for what to keep and what to lose are too vague for my comfort.  I'd like some explication of the rules, particularly "Leaves behind everything belonging to her old life" from Vincent.  And I'd appreciate any examples from actual games that y'all have of characters changing their type.

To root this in an actual game, I play Annette, The Driver of Bus -- which is also her ancestral home (or at least she and her twin sister were born there).  And I've acquired all the advances that I'm interested in.  So now, I can retire, bring in a new PC or change type.  My MC believes that there is no way that I can change type and also keep Bus.  And I think that there is no way the character that I've built up would ever give up Bus.  So I'm done.  (Though, I'm eye-balling custom moves as a way out, so no need to point me to them.) 

Is that how the game is supposed to work?  Is that how y'all play?  I can see justification for my MC's stance -- if my character is not willing to give up Bus, then she's really still The Driver.  So I'm not just asking to beat him up, I'm curious where others stand on the issue.


Apocalypse World / The Finder
« on: January 11, 2011, 02:51:48 PM »
I've worked this idea through a few cycles of revision with my homies at Snail's Pace before bringing it here, but I want to see if there are any more good comments that arise from the scrutiny of a wider audience (or Vincent, even). 

What I'd like to hear about:
  • This character is supposed to be a bounty-hunter or master-thief kind of person.  Is that obvious from the description and moves?  If not, what should I be looking to change?
  • Are there any outright flaws?  I doubt it.  I suspect there are merely bits of style that individuals won't like -- and that's fine.  But if something is really borked, I'd like to know about it.
  • I think that playbooks should (and the extant ones normally are very good at this) allow you to create at least a few quite distinct characters.  Does this one do that?
  • This doesn't seem like a particularly necessary post-apocalyptic trope.  Is that a problem?
  • Do you see ways to retool any individual moves so that they are more interesting?
  • Would you consider playing this when presented with all the options?  Why not?
  • Anything else that I forgot or you think I ought to hear.

The Finder

Apocalypse World is dog-eat-dog.  People are always stealing shit or running off.  When folks need stuff, or need it back, they talk to you.

To create your finder, choose name, look, stats, moves and Hx.

Rhodesia, Ethan, Bail, Scout, Rover, Cycle, Skip, Dog, Queen, Rick, Domino, Scarecrow, Baby, Monkey


Man, woman, ambiguous, or transgressing

Utility wear, uniform wear, scrounge wear or luxe wear

Worn face, sharp face, cruel face, determined face, hard face

Clear eyes, suspicious eyes, unconcerned eyes, appraising eyes, hard eyes

Rangy body, sturdy body, stout body, strong body, small body

Chose one set:

Cool-1 Hard=0 Hot+1 Sharp+2 Weird+1
Cool+1 Hard+1 Hot=0 Sharp+2 Weird-1
Cool=0 Hard-1 Hot-1 Sharp+2 Weird+2
Cool+1 Hard-1 Hot+1 Sharp+2 Weird=0


You get all the basic moves.  You also get Single-minded pursuit and your choice of one of the other finder moves.

Finder Moves:

Single-minded pursuit: any time that you're not already in pursuit, you can name a person or thing -- one of a kind or one of a type, and now you are.  Make a note of it.  Your quarry must be completely unknown or have gone missing.  You'll be in pursuit until you've reached your target or discovered it destroyed.  Take +1 forward whenever you act directly in your pursuit.  When the MC thinks you're ignoring your quarry, you'll be acting under fire -- your thoughts keep going to the hunt.  When you do reach your quarry and are no longer in pursuit mark xp.

In the zone: when acting in pursuit, you take +1 armor -- you don't have time to get hurt.

Ripcord: Once you've acquired the subject of your pursuit, you both get back home.  Roll+weird.  On a 10+, spend 3.  On a 7-9, spend 1:
 - you got home without taking damage
 - you got home without being seen
 - you didn't take forever getting home
 - you remember how you got home

Gotta know where to look: find some place where you can think for a bit and name a person or thing -- one of a kind or one of a type, and roll+sharp.  On a hit, you figure out where it is.  On a 10+ you intuit some stuff about the surroundings or situation -- the MC will tell you what.

That one thing they need: any time you're using oddments for barter, it's worth one more.  The thing you're trading might not generally be worth that much, but you know that this person really wants or needs what you've got.

In and out: when you're seizing by force, you're a racoon, not a bear.  Roll+sharp instead of hard.  One of the options you choose must be to take definite hold of your goal.

Connects the dots: you get +1 to sharp (sharp+3)


Everyone introduces their characters by name, look and outlook.  Take your turn.

List the other characters' names.

Go around again for Hx.  On your turn:
 - Decide if you're involved in a steady marcantile operation or more of a special operative.  If the former, tell everyone +1.  If the latter, tell everyone -1.

On the others' turns use any, all or none:
 - Choose a character you've done work for before.  Whatever number they give you, give it a +1.
 - Choose a character who has something you want.  Whatever number they give you, give it a +1.
 - Choose a character who stiffed you.  Whatever number they give you, give it a +2.

__ get +1 cool (max cool+2)
__ get +1 hard (max hard+2)
__ get +1 hot (max hot+2)
__ get a new finder move
__ get a new finder move
__ get a new finder move
__ get 2 gigs (detail) and moonlighting
__ get a gang (detail) for operations, and leadership
__ get a move from another playbook
__ get a move from another playbook

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