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Topics - Gregor Vuga

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AW:Dark Age / Playtest, thoughts
« on: March 06, 2014, 06:56:39 AM »
We played yesterday. I thought it would just be a one-off playtest between campaigns of other games, but everyone wanted to play again, so we're going to do a mini-campaign of it (2-5 more sessions, say).

I was the MC. The players picked the Wicker Wise, Outlaw Heir and War Herald. We might have another player joining next week.

Character creation went faster than expected, especially for the WW and WH. The Outlaw Heir took a bit longer with his lands.

We were a bit unsure about those. We decided that his aunt had murdered his parents and his sister (the rightful heir according to old blood) and taken the throne. The title "outlaw" implied than he was in hiding or otherwise persecuted while she ruled the land, but then he also has a town of 12.000 people that's his by right, and it seemed to be the largest settlement on the map by far, leaving his aunt almost nothing to rule over. I'm assuming that as the MC I should throw in many lands and holdings that are outside the PC's rights in a situation such as this?

I noticed Tim's group rolled Fortunes at the start of the session. We didn't because it says "change of seasons". I guess both are fair.

Like I intuited on my first cursory readthrough, there's a lot more to keep track of than in regular AW. In AW you probably have only one or two characters that have any kind of holding or following. Here everyone has lots of lands and people, and it's awesome. Everyone was excited by this. It's definitely more work, but it didn't seem too much of a burden. As a MC I liked that I could handle their lands and people as part of their character. When the War-Herald proposed a suicidal battle plan to his people, I did the typical AW "tell them the possible consequences and ask", which resulted in 5/6ths of his people leaving before the battle (take away their stuff etc.). It was a very cool moment.

I think I definitely want some sort of worksheet to keep track of all the PC's allies and resources.

I'm not entirely sold on Battles. We had a few, but it seemed that when everyone was suited up and ready, they always defaulted to 0 harm (because of armour, size of units, PC moves etc.). In other cases the harm was of such magnitude that "battle" wasn't really an option that I would consider triggering (like when the Outlaw Heir cut down an unarmed, unarmored NPC by simply dealing 5 harm).

Pray was also weird. The 10+ result makes sense, but on 7-9 we were like "huh?". Reading your comment about scaling difficulty I think I understand better how it's supposed to work, but it still doesn't seem right.
On 10+ the gods take your sacrifice and tell you how you might get what you want. On 7-9 the gods either take or don't take your sacrifice, MC's choice, with no word on what you're asking for. The Wicker-Wise sacrificed an enemy to the god of war, asking for divine support in the upcoming battle. He got a 7-9 and I decided the sacrifice was accepted and the support would be provided (and then treated it as a Helping roll on the War-Herald's Battle roll). But that didn't feel right as the 10+ result implies you still got work to do before you get what you're asking for. Clarifications?

The Take Stock and Take Bearing moves almost always resulted in custom questions being asked (mostly just slight modifications to the core questions though).

Another thing that came up was custom moves and XP. After running lots of AW, MH, Sagas, etc. it's second nature to me now, and I made two custom moves during the game (I can't remember them now, because I didn't write them down, stupid). My instinct was to have the player mark XP for rolling on that custom move (we decided against it for the time being), but I'd like your opinion on it.

On the subject of XP, are the playbooks meant to have different advancement rates? The War-Herald advanced twice during the evening (he seemed to have more stuff to mark on the back of the sheet compared to the other two, plus going into battle alone nets you at least 3-4 XP by my understanding (marking the move, probably armour, harm and fates). Going into battle with your wolf-pack is all the same except substitute your warriors' armour and harm plus it netted him another mark because one of his pack's Better Qualities was relevant to the roll. The Wicker Wise advanced once towards the end of the session, and the Outlaw Heir only advanced at the very end of the session when we revised his sheet and noticed he forgot to mark something. But I think the Outlaw Heir was also failing to use his NPC supporters to any great effect (that might have been a failure on my part as MC, too).

Oh, and the "take a normal name and change one or two letters" rule - we applied it to places and gods to. It got really really silly, but oddly enough it worked pretty well. The old gods all have changed Kaiju names (Mothrag, Gothila, King Fedorah...) and places are all fake European locales (Bospar, Londar, Troaste...)

That's all for now.

Hello again everyone.

I've already posted this on g+, twitter and a thread on SG. It's been a long year. Too long. I'm now taking time off to finalize the mechanics.

This is what I consider the more or less "finished" version of the playbooks (minus layout, art, flavor text and all that), plus the sheet that the MC uses to run the game.

MC Sheet:

I need actual play and constructive feedback to rewrite the things that don't make sense, polish the wording. Maybe throw out or change a move or two that are broken and add a move or two where they're needed and that's it. Then comes the really hard bit: editing, art and layout.

roleplaying theory, hardcore / Stepping on Up to the Investigation
« on: March 03, 2011, 10:16:23 AM »
This is part rant, part question, part proposition, part idle musing. Make of it what you will.

Over on anyway. Vincent had a conversation with Dave Berg about his game Delve. (link:

 At one point, he wrote:
Do I solve the weird problems in play, or does the GM solve them in prep?

Missing children, foul odor, destroyed forest, magics at work, I'm right with you. I've got my augury and my special perception and I'm psyched; bring it on. But is it my job, as player, to discover what's going on and then decide what to do about it, or to discover what's going on, discover what to do about it, and then do it?
(bolded by me, italics Vincent's)
The former is good, the latter sucks, yeah?

So, anyway, let's say that I'm playing a game, where the core question is "Can you solve this mystery?". And my character goes about, solving it, investigating a situation. The GM is not leading me by the breadcrumb trail, he has no planned reveal, I could easily fail to figure out what's going on, the GM doesn't care either way, yada yada, all that stuff. Awesome.

But consider this: let's say that at the heart of the mystery is a murderous werewolf. During the course of the game, my character discovers this fact. He also discovers that werewolves have a deadly allergy to silver. I could have failed to discover that information, I was actively discovering stuff, not simply accepting the GM's reveals. But once I win this investigation (by my wits, luck and skill, playing the dice as hard as I can) does it really really remain any question about "what to do about it?". I fucking shoot the werewolf with a silver bullet.

Much like in a fight, if there is a best weapon+power combo, the game gets boring, because there's an obvious answer to a question. Why would I ever not pick that weapon+power combo? Why would I ever not shoot the werewolf with a silver bullet?

So consider the investigation as a conflict. The better I am at investigating, the more I learn, until the only clear solution presents itself, and I've won. Getting enough information is like taking away all the enemy's HP. Discovering that I can shoot the werewolf with a silver bullet is taking the mystery to 0, sine missione. But maybe I wasn't as good in my investigation, and I'm forced to face the werewolf without the benefit of knowing about silver and there's some compromise, not a complete victory. Or maybe I completely fail to discover the beast and it carries out its goals.

I'll break here for now. Thoughts?

Sagas of the Icelanders / [old, ignore this] Yeah?
« on: January 26, 2011, 01:08:14 PM »

[link redacted]

I bandied things about a lot, went back to my original notes, tore it down, went back to the first published draft, kicked things a bit and here it is.

To be perfectly honest not much has changed from the previous draft. I certainly expected to change the fight move, but it's still the same. I think all the playbooks are pretty settled now and I think the doc has everything you need to play. If anything is wrong, confusing or missing let me know.

I expect a bunch of moves to get trashed or changed as actual play shows them to be boring or broken, so if you get the chance to play please push it hard and see if anything breaks. I think the reward cycle is not as strong as I initially hoped but I could be wrong.

The layout is a bit balls. I'll fix it when I can.

EDIT: Crap, I just noticed a bunch of text regarding Bonds is missing. I'll fix it asap.

brainstorming & development / Giving away free hack ideas!
« on: November 20, 2010, 07:14:55 AM »
Just a poo-poo post.

I'd love to do these, but I have neither the time nor the appropriate level of knowledge of the source material...add any cool hacks you can think of but can't work on yourself.

1. Wizarding World
Harry Potter basically, you can do it during Voldemort's rise, for extra apocalypse. Wants: safety, power, secret knowledge, treasure, prophecy, loyalty, love
Playbooks: Muggle, Student (detail your house, by default your house has...etc.), Animagus, Professor of..., Half-Giant.
Moves: when you cast a spell, when you're close to someone, when you give in to power, when you speak to snakes,...
Stats: Heart, Brains, Ambition, Magic...

2. Dying World
Jack Vance, Dying Earth, blah blah.
One of the principles: Speak loftily
Stats: Witty, Charming, Sneaky, Dangerous

Maybe this had been already discussed back in the day when the Big Model was being created, I don't know, I never read all the threads. Vincent, shoot me down if I'm flying in the wrong direction.

It's not a big deal, really, it doesn't change anything about the BM at all, it just another element to exploration. Or possibly more elements.

-Myself and
-People (aka real, live human nature)

Or does that fall under some other part of the Model? Cause to me, these sound like pretty legit elements of Exploration.

Many many years ago, when we were still teenagers, most of my friends were playing these super efficient cool dudes. You know, trenchcoats, glasses, katanas. That kind of thing. Me? I did that for a while, too.

And then I played a woman. And an old man. And a little girl. And an ugly fat bastard.

So, I guess you could say it was an exploration of Character, to a point. But I remember distinctly, that for me, a big part of it was to challenge myself "Can I play a female? How do I feel about that?". I dunno. Is it a legit element?

The other thing, people. You wrote about "live human nature" in your three insights, as part of design, but that happens in play, too, yeah? I'm not just talking about characters in the game (exploring "real" human nature through the interplay of situation and character etc.) but about exploring social dynamics, the people that we play with. If I do this, will they be shocked? How far can I go with this description? If I make this happen, will they think it's cool? And it's not just about the game and the way we play, and test all these little boundaries (set by Agenda?), it's also getting to know the people you play with. Realizing your friend is making the same character over and over and what does that mean? Figuring out what pushes someone's buttons?

You mentioned that in Dogs, too I think. Getting to know a side of your friends you didn't know before. Maybe Poison'd says a lot about people you play with, too? Or not?

A person playing out a specific fantasy is covered by Right to Dream. But getting to know that person, through that fantasy of his, that could be exploration? Or is it outside the scope?

Sagas of the Icelanders / Hi, Meguey!
« on: August 22, 2010, 06:21:29 PM »

Thank you both!!!

Knife & Candle / The anti-stats (Menaces)
« on: August 21, 2010, 06:51:06 AM »
So, you've got Dangerous, Watchful, Persuasive and Shadowy, right. There's other qualities like Routes, Connected (can be handled by a Hx-like mechanism, like Influence in Shreyas' Set Apart), Accomplishments, Story and Specific Abilities, which, based on the chatter from John and Vincent, would add options and upgrade your basic moves or maybe give you new ones. (If you have the quality "Investigating: the secrets of St. Dunstan's" then your Watchful move gains an option "Does this have the air of St. Dunstan's about it?") Maybe that has changed, I dunno.

But you've also got Scandal, Suspicion, Wounds and Nightmares. Original AW already has a parallel to wounds: Harm. What happens there is that when you take Harm, you roll+harm taken. Why not apply the same to the other menaces. So, making this stuff up as I go along...

When you take Wounds...I'd leave this just as it is in AW. Except obviously, when you die, you just get taken to the Tomb Colonies.

When you become Suspicious, roll +Suspicion
On 10+, the MC picks one:
-your progress is interrupted: you're watched, under investigation, interrogated
-caught red handed! take +1 Suspicion
-pick two from the list below:

On 7-9:
-you alert the authorities to your activities
-you have to get out quick and leave your stuff behind
-you need to change lodgings
-you need to blame it on someone else

When you become the epicentre of a Scandal, roll +Scandal
Haven't hit this yet, so no idea what happens...

When you come face to face with something Nightmarish, roll +Nightmares
On 10+, the MC picks one:
-you're unable to handle this any more, you're catatonic, feverish, shocked, sobbing...
-it's even more horrible than you could have imagined: take +1 Nightmares
-the MC picks two from the list below:

On 7-9:
-you begin having strange encounters in the street
-you won't be able to sleep tonight
-you drop everything and run screaming
-you're sure there's someone watching you

If any of your Menaces hit 12:00, you get taken to the appropriate places or institutions.

These aren't perfect in any way, but that's the direction I'd take it.

Alternatively (a little harsher), take out the countdown clocks and just assign the worst result to a 12+ roll, so:
Nightmares: On 12+ You're in a state of some confusion. There's a room with soft walls and talking cats.
Suspicion: On 12+ Too late! The constables descend upon you with no means of escape. You get locked up in New Newgate Prison.
Scandal: No idea what happens, haven't gotten there yet.
Wounds: On 12+ Darkness falls on your eyes, you wake up in the Tomb Colonies.

The 12+ results are basically just permissions to the Master of Ceremonies (or actually, Master of the Bazaar?) to use a bunch of his hardest moves at once. (separate them, put them in a spot etc.)


Of course you could complicate it more, give it some more depth and diversity. Madness could have Hold over you, and you could spend that Hold by doing crazy-person stuff.



Apocalypse World / Do we have any AW Actual Play videos yet?
« on: August 20, 2010, 05:16:59 PM »
Because man, I'd love to see some, especially to see how John Harper runs the game for example. For those poor souls amongst us living far away and on the other side of the ocean (and can't attend GenCon and stuff like that).

Sagas of the Icelanders / The Viking art of Single Combat
« on: August 20, 2010, 04:50:39 PM »
Sadly, I haven't gotten around to playtesting my new combat move for this game yet, but I want to speak about the intent behind it, even if I don't know if it works at all.

The duel scene in the 13th Warrior has long been a favourite of mine, as well as the whole idea of a Holmgang in general. I felt that the AW "combat rules" (although there really aren't any) would not be able to handle such an exchange of blows.

Basically what I want to see is a couple of people banging on each other's shields until one breaks or someone gets a luck pass and then it's all over very fast. I guess I could model this accurately with a bunch of extra rules and rewrites but I wanted to keep it as simple and non-intrusive as possible. I hope the get into a fight move does its job.

Sagas of the Icelanders / Personas of Iceland
« on: August 20, 2010, 04:42:38 PM »
Initially, I intended SotI to be a game of its own. I was struggling with how to recreate these archetypes in game mechanics when the AW playtest dropped in my lap and I saw the light, kinda. Initially, I just tried to rewrite the original playbooks, but something was bugging me, I forget what exactly. I started from scratch. I believe it was Jason Morningstar (the expert on all things Sagas) that pointed out to me that it was probably impossible to have a thoroughly gender-agnostic archetype for this kind of game, so for the next iteration I decided to break them down according to the way roles were originally divided in viking society, sort of.

My sensibilities were sort of offended at this. I am no fan of gender divisions, but I was determined to stick close to history and the source materials (the list of my mediography is at the end of the working doc).

So, now we have, on the female side:
The Grandmother - envisioned as the kind of elderly, strong woman that takes up all the business as head of the family in a situation where the man is dead or absent. History has plenty of these, they kick ass.

The Seidkona - the witch, you can't go without one. Bit of a recluse, mysterious, maybe an old crone, maybe a bit of a femme fatale. People are afraid of her.

The Shieldmaiden - A woman with a sword, what else do you want me to say. There are quite a few of them in the sagas, actually. The vikings possibly had the most gender-equal army in the middle ages.

Young Woman - Mostly based on the female character in Hrafninn flygur, I wanted to cover the archetype of the celtic woman, of which there were plenty in Iceland. Vikings took lots of wives, willing or unwilling in Ireland, and they brought a largely suppressed but significant cultural element with them.

The woman's skill, in the source material, is mostly her ability to manipulate, they are excellent at prodding men into action where they are unable to. This would leave them as a sort of passive character who acts through others, so I opted for a more unorthodox approach and gave them all pretty serious abilities for laying down some smack. Which is not to say they aren't able to spin men around their fingers as well.

I'm pretty pleased with all of these character books, except with the shieldmaiden's, which I haven't written yet. I'll probably revise eventually. I'll have to take another hard look at how the Maestro'D, Skinner and Hardholder use their effects on people and their handle on resources to do stuff.

As for men...
The Freeman - just the ordinary everyman. I though it would be silly not to have a playbook for one, even if they are not all that interesting. What's cool about these guys is that in Iceland, people opted not to have nobility. So these people were a kind of anarchist, pioneering entrepreneurs. I'll probably redo this one, mostly taking a look at the Operator.

Chieftain - not having nobility doesn't mean there wasn't a need for rulers. But I wanted to go a more religious way with the chieftain, not unrelated to the fact that the title of Godi pretty much means both a chieftain and a priest. Since the pre-AW drafts of the game I wanted to have an interplay between the old religion and christianity and model mechanically why the later came to uproot the former (but leave the choice to the players). The Godi playbook is part of that.

The Viking - well duh. Not much to say here except that Buliwyf in The 13th Warrior (and Beowulf in general) was an inspiration here, even if anachronistic.

The Wanderer - probably my personal favourite, although I haven't yet figured how to make this character do all the stuff I want him to do. Heavily, heavily inspired by the myth of Odin, the Gestur ("Guest") chracter in Hrafninn flygur and the One-Eye character in Valhalla Rising, this nameles outsider is probably meant to be to SotI what the Battlebabe is to AW, a pin defining the third dimension.

Sagas of the Icelanders / Fronts in SotI
« on: August 20, 2010, 04:12:19 PM »
Ok, first off, let me say that this bit is giving me the most trouble. I don't have all that much experience with setting fronts, because I haven't run the game all that much. Fronts were also the part that I needed the most time to get my head around the first time I read the playtest document, as funny as that sounds.

So yeah, coming up with new, setting-appropriate Fronts for this hack has been my biggest worry. Let me just unfold my thoughts so far...

I think the list is pretty good for Iceland, too. However, this is not a world falling apart, it's a world that hasn't been built up yet. So, remove decay, add cold.

Warlords are all good, I think they fit this setting as well. I just think they're far less common than in Apocalypse World. But that's no reason to really throw them out or change them, I think.

Ok, my first impulse is to remove Grotesques alltogether. My intent was to keep the supernatural dial as low as possible, probably at zero, and the historical dial high. So mutant-types and cannibals are out...but Disease-vectors or pain-addicts could work. And it's just too tempting to put in a Grendel-type as a Perversion of Birth or something of the like. Still, Grotesques are out. The good ones will be relocated.

Landscapes are great. Iceland is a harsh frontier after all. If you want to turn that supernatural dial up a bit Mirages and Mazes can easily work as the tricks of the Landsvaetir. Landscapes are a-ok.

All good. I don't think this needs changing.

Much like Warlords, probably not as common as in AW, but perfectly acceptable.

Ok, so that's for the existing ones. Here's where the design bit comes in. I want to make a new group, called Feuds or maybe (Mistakes of) The Past or something of the like. It would include a few of the surviving Grotesque threats. Killed the monsterboy's dad years ago? Time to set that Revenge countdown clock ticking. That sort of thing.

Which makes me think that the MC's list of moves needs a new one: Announce Past Sin

Feedback most welcome.

I understand the term was coined by Ron Edwards, and you've said that AW is that kind of game. I believe I understand what that means, but could you give us some more insight into, what's your process like or whatever? I would greatly appreciate it.

Also, I thought this was broader than just AW, so I put it here, but it could easily fit into Blood & Guts, I guess, so feel free to relocate it, if you think so.

Thank you.

The Dragon Killer / Music of the Dragon Killer
« on: August 19, 2010, 08:31:18 PM »
We had a pretty good thread over in Story Games, talking about what kind of music we (would) use to evoke mood in Apocalypse World and use it as background noise in our games.

Today, while taking a long bus ride I was listening to some stuff on my mp3 player that I haven't listened to in a long while, specifically, some tracks off the Blood Axis / In Gowan Ring collaboration album, entitled "Witch Hunt: The rites of Samhain". It's old irish/celtic folk with a modern, dark, neofolk spin. In my mind, it's what the world of the Dragon Killer sounds like.

There's also a good rendition of I am Stretched on your Grave on the album, but it's not on youtube, so here's a Dead Can Dance version instead. Although to me it's not as evocative as the BA/IGR interpretation.

"She charmed the fish all out of the sea, she charmed the birds all out of their nests. She charmed her true love? out of? his grave, till he could no longer rest."
"I smell of the earth and am worn by the weather."
"The priests and the friars behold me in dread because I still love you, my love, and you're dead."

Hope it inspires someone.

brainstorming & development / Apocalypse Now-World
« on: July 15, 2010, 07:26:09 PM »
Just ideas, maybe someone wants to pick this up (otherwise I will, when I get the time).

Start by hacking the Angel, Battlebabe and Gunlugger, maybe Operator, Savvyhead and Driver, I don't know. New playbooks. They don't need many changes however.

Stats stay as they are. Maybe change Weird to just Crazy. Open your heart to the Jungle. Some custom moves, mostly relating to shooting people in the forest, not seeing the enemy, booby traps...being under fire is pretty much something that happens all the time. Maybe repaint the basic moves a little. Reading a sitch becomes like, the most important move ever, acting under fire immediately after that.

Scarcity is lack of humanity, cool air, ammunition, peace, relief, sanity, knowledge, sleep, letters from home, discipline.

Fronts are terrain, VC, crazy dudes, the army, leaders, the insects and disease.

Mediography: Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket (+Deer Hunter, We Were Soldiers, maybe throw in some Jarhead and stuff like that).

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