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Messages - David Bowers

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brainstorming & development / Re: A different dice mechanic?
« on: June 13, 2014, 02:36:01 AM »
I think you could easily just try it in any AW game you're in and see what it does to the game. My hunch is that (assuming you use my step up/down version) it'll add a bit more ebb and flow to each character's individual arc. If you wanted, you could also make it so that the whole group shared a single die, which then went up or down depending on the result of the last person to roll it. Could be interesting!

The reasons I don't recommend letting someone choose which die size to use is, first, that d4 would always be best against NPCs if you have any +stat bonus at all, and d20 would always be best if you have a -1. In PvP, the choice maybe somewhat more complicated. Second, though, the choice of which die to use isn't related to the fiction at all, and therefore it distracts from it. A player will be thinking, "Okay I hope I can sneak around the Gunlugger there, so do I need to Act Under Fire? Okay... oh wait. Which die do I use... um... a d6 I guess? Now, can I roll yet?" You see? That "oh wait" moment weakens the moment of suspense and takes you out of the story a bit.

Anyway, hope that's helpful :)

brainstorming & development / Re: A different dice mechanic?
« on: June 11, 2014, 10:50:59 PM »
I'm actually a little unclear now. So far I've only seen responses to the initiative idea, but none on the alternative dice mechanic, and I feel the need to understand that mechanic a little better before passing judgment as, say, "hashed" or "not hashed".

For example, how would one get a bigger die? Is it another stat that determines it? Or do you just have to choose? Taking the time to choose which die to roll would probably distract from the fictional choices you have to make. If no other stat determined which die to roll, you could simply start high and let it get bigger every time you got a hit, and smaller every time you got a miss. So say you start with a d8, then you rolled a 4, your next die would be a d6 (meaning that your +x stat would help you succeed much more next time), but if you rolled a 5, then your next die would be a d10 (meaning you'd be somewhat more likely to get into trouble). Any +2 or +3 stat would be extremely powerful at lower die levels.

It seems to me that there's some real value to your game play right there, even without any initiative element thrown in. I suppose if you find yourself unsure about how the PvP situation should play out, who should go first, and you can't seem to find the right questions that As If was talking about in order to find the most logical sequence in the story itself, then you could use the higher result as an initiative marker. But then again, I can imagine some initiative results being hard to interpret, such as if I rolled a 4 on a d4 (a success), and you rolled a 5 on a d10 (a miss), then your "miss" would come before my "success"? What would that look like? Maybe only hits would count? Misses would automatically go last?

In any case, I think it's worth exploring for certain implementations of a Powered-by-the-Apocalypse game, but you'd have to think carefully about the intention and what effect you want the die mechanic to have on play. These are just some of the ways I see, but you might see something else :) 

Dungeon World / Re: Players want a more Gameist Combat
« on: September 03, 2013, 03:32:04 AM »
Have you ever read or heard of the "Zone" idea from reading a Fate-based game? Another game that uses a similar concept (but calls them "Arenas") is Old School Hack, which is also free. Anyway, the idea is that you draw a map (which Dungeon World also instructs you to do... are you doing this?) and divide the map into Zones, which are basically just spaces in which people could easily move, fight, and do stuff; any sort of barrier can create another zone, and moving from zone to zone could have a cost involved.

I think something like that could work well even in Dungeon World, but you might consider actually looking at Old School Hack and especially Fate, with the way it enables teammates to build up advantages for each other to use, and see if those systems are more suited toward the specific balance you're looking for.

I don't personally recommend the Marvel Heroic style of initiative for Dungeon World, though in Fate or OSH, it might work fine, because Dungeon World is strictly built on the "fiction first" flow of play. Many moves (such as Hack and Slash) are built so that the player and her opponent effectively take their turns at the same time, and anyway you really have to go where the dice and the common sense of the situation tell you to go next in terms of whose "turn" it is in other more one-sided situations.

I think you would also find a lot of useful advice in the Dungeon World Guide ( Have you seen that yet?

Dungeon World / Re: Levels in the Fiction
« on: March 02, 2012, 03:12:25 AM »
Titles is a good idea. Might be kind of hard to make them work for each class though. I'm not sure how BX managed it.

Also, of course Dungeon World in its current state requires levels for many of the moves and other things to work, but it needn't be that way. Apocalypse World doesn't work that way, nor do many other fantasy roleplaying systems other than Dungeons and Dragons. Yet all these systems also have good milestone rewards, and in my opinion a similar system of advancement would not spoil the old-school feeling.

Dungeon World / Levels in the Fiction
« on: March 02, 2012, 01:46:03 AM »
Hey all,

I was just looking over the rules for the Wizard, about how they get a new spell every level, and I thought: what does that mean for the Wizard as a character, as a part of the story. Does he suddenly realize how to do a new spell that he's been studying in his book? Does the power of magic now flow more strongly through him, enabling him to get greater power over it? There are undoubtedly lots of fishy answers we can use to try to make it make sense, but more often than not, we just don't question it -- he just gets the new spell and that's it. Dungeon World is a game at that moment, not a story.

I think I'd need a solid fictional explanation for what's going on with levels to do this game justice as a player or GM, or else... why not just ditch them entirely? Apocalypse World gets along just fine with advancements every 5 xp, but no measure of "levels" as such, why not Dungeon World too? Already, monster levels have been removed because they don't mean anything in terms of fictional positioning.

Are player levels so *core* to the old-school-dungeon-delving fantasy experience that they simply cannot be done without? If so, why not make them integral to the new-school-dungeon-delving fantasy story we still want out of the game?

Earthdawn, that old gem, called them "Circles," and it was something characters actually talked with one another about in the fiction. It was a measure of how powerful and renowned you were to say you were a "10th Circle Beastmaster," in their world, a bit like terms such as, "4-star general," "green beret," or "black belt" in ours.

I suggest we go one way or the other with Dungeon World. Put levels in the fiction or take them out of the game.

roleplaying theory, hardcore / Re: Vincent redoes D&D
« on: January 11, 2012, 06:42:11 AM »
None of us can presume to speak for him of course. I understand what you're saying like this, "how would you apply what you've learned from reading / playing Vincent's games if you were to redesign D&D?" which is a more reasonable question, I think. There are more things in Vincent's mind, WaitYes, than are dreamt of in our philosophy.

That said, according to the principles I gather from his designs, I'm not sure that keeping the fan base happy would be a huge priority. I'd rather somebody just designed an awesome game and let it be what it is, and let people decide for themselves if they like it or not. So much bad design in all fields comes from trying to "make people happy" rather than just trying do it right whether "people" are "happy" about that or not.

Also, the whole idea of a 5th edition of any game seems rather odd in the light of lumpley games publication history. Just like you don't see 5 different editions of Dogs in the Vineyard, but instead you get In a Wicked Age, Poison'd, Apocalypse World, and so on, it's seems to me that it's better to just design a new game instead of redesigning an old one. If one absolutely must keep the same branding and IP and so on, then fine, but make distinct games with distinct priorities that people can play or not as they like, (e.g. "D&D: Secrets and Spies," "D&D: Total War," "D&D: Epic Journey," and so on)  rather than remaking the same old game and fragmenting your fan base.

All that said, the most D&D-like game that Vincent has worked on was Storming the Wizard's Tower, which may provide some insights. That one ran into some problems though, and then Dungeon World came out. Its core is basically the same as Vincent's design in Apocalypse World, and although the secondary elements were designed by others, the game is an homage to both Vincent and D&D, and in many ways feels authentic in both respects.

brainstorming & development / Re: Some specific issues I am dealing with
« on: January 01, 2012, 11:12:04 AM »
Hey, these are cool problems to have. I quite like the recovery move you wrote. :)

How about this -- just say that each condition you meet gives you 1/4 of your Fight! back (rounded down). The math is different from what you had before, but not all that different, and it means that getting some rest or medical attention all by itself is still worthwhile. It's also a lot easier to do on the fly.

Here's another suggestion: If the Fight! score is relatively static, that is, not shifting around a lot from conflict to conflict because of advantages and disadvantages and such, you could do the math for this move during character creation, while people's minds are fresh, with special boxes on the character sheet for noting down what 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8 of your Fight! scores are. Then when people do the move, they could just add that number to their Fight! according to the circumstances. When people level up or otherwise permanently increase their Fight!, then they could just adjust the fractions again. You that kind of once-per-level math in D&D all the time.

By the way, do you have other recovery mechanics in the game, such as healing spells? How do those work? If you want, you could consider making similar mechanics work in a similar way. So, for instance, with these increments already defined, an interesting healing spell could restore 1d4/8ths of a character's Fight! (that is, between 1/8 and 4/8), and so on, instead of just a number (such as 2d8 Fight! points). Or it could restore your Fight! up to 1/2, no more and no less, so that it would only be good for healing up people who are really badly hurt.

Certain kinds of damage could also subtract from Fight in these increments, especially in cases where doing regular number-based damage doesn't work. Remember how in D&D, a knife was only 1d4 damage, no matter whether you were using it in a battle or sneaking up on someone while they slept? A 12th level wizard simply could not be killed by a knife except by multiple stabs over a long period of time. With a system of fractional increments specified in advance, you could allow certain circumstances, such as surprise attacks, drowning, fatigue, and so on, to reduce your Fight! by fractions, with the reasoning that most people die at pretty much the same rate from a knife to the throat (e.g. -1d4/4ths of Fight!) or lungs full of water, (e.g. -1/8 the first few minutes under water, then -1/4 for the next few minutes, and so on) no matter how awesome they are.

Of course all of this might be totally way off your design goals, but you know, it's just fun to brainstorm with ya. Maybe there's a seed of a useful idea in there for someone somewhere out there.

Apocalypse World / Re: Playbook: The Rat-Pack
« on: December 15, 2011, 11:47:10 AM »
Yes that clarifies things a lot for me, thanks! The part that confuses me is on page 169 under the special rules for harming a gang, there's a little countdown clock, copied also on your trifold character sheet for the rat-pack, where it shows this:

1-harm: a few injuries, one or two serious, no fatalities.
2-harm: many injuries, several serious, a couple of fatalities.
3-harm: widespread injuries, many serious, several fatalities.
4-harm: widespread serious injuries, many fatalities.
5-harm and more: widespread fatalities, few survivors.

Then, in the example, Dremmeler's gang inflicts 2 harm on Uncle's gang (Uncle's the PC), and two of his gang members just die, just like that, "looking through crosshairs" style. Uncle also takes 2 harm, since he's leading the gang. Trying to escape, Uncle's gang takes more harm, and ends up with just a few of his gang left alive, and Uncle himself badly hurt.

In your playbook, you wrote, "When you take harm as a gang, take harm as a gang," hence my confusion. How would you suggest we interpret gang "fatalities" on the gang harm countdown with the rat pack?

Apocalypse World / Re: Playbook: The Rat-Pack
« on: December 15, 2011, 09:36:07 AM »
Hey, my group and I are really interested in the Rat-Pack, but I have a clarity question for you before we really go for it. The rules say that when taking harm together, they can take it as a gang -- does that mean that after 2 harm one of the kids really dies (some fatalities)? Or does "fatality" here count as "unconscious" as mentioned in the playbook section on getting harmed as a gang.

Just doing the math, it seems to me that if I have a 5-kid pack, and take 3 harm as a gang, maybe 2 kids would die, right? That would leave me with 3 left, stats reduced, just barely surviving. But if they were to take 4 harm, 3 kids would die, and then the number of kids in the gang would fall to less than 3 and it would fall apart. The extra rule about one of the kids dying instead of taking a disfigurement couldn't apply because the pack would fall apart just from regular gang damage before ever getting that far, wouldn't it?

Besides. I mean. Gosh. Kids, man.

Apocalypse World / Re: Question about Apocalypse World LE Playbooks
« on: October 05, 2011, 11:33:55 PM »
I come seeking Marmot. I had originally intended to support the Animal Detective game on kicktsarter but got too busy and didn't get to it before the deadline passed.  Anyways, I have all the other official LE playbooks for trade, as well as some fan made stuff such as the "valkyrie" and the "living god".

Please send me a message if you'd like to trade.

blood & guts / Re: ESL Hack: Apocalypse World for Chinese children
« on: November 06, 2010, 01:41:26 PM »
Thanks for your reply Jeff! I agree it is a rather puzzling question.

1. The whole problem with this is that trying to simplify the language creates phrases that are not only bland, but unclear. The richness of meaning that comes from short and tight idioms is lost, and you end up with long bland sentences that don't get anyone excited. That's why I'm thinking a move could be designed something like this:
"Face a danger"
good = Do it.
mixed = Do it, but...
bad = Can't do it.

"Solve a problem"
good = It's solved!
mixed = Partly solved...
bad = It gets worse.

Here we're not yet talking about how to reach either of these three categories mechanically, of course, but rather ways of framing the move using evocative but simple key words or short phrases, rather than prose. How could we simplify "read a sitch" for example?

2. Yep, the dice are like candy for their fingers. They keep wanting to play with them and fudge the results. The cards do make them want to peek at the results before it's time, but that's easy to fix with a rule that once they look at the cards they can't draw any more and it's time to resolve the challenge.

I'm also really hoping that the cards mechanic somehow rewards specific language use. So for example, instead of saying, "I catch the thief," they would have to use 'story words' (or vocabulary I give them) to their advantage, as in, "I run quickly and throw my magic scarf around his legs, to make him..." Here a student might ask me how to say 'trip,' so I teach him and write it on the board as a special vocabulary word, then he continues, "To make him trip!" And for all this hard work he gets three cards!

But can this work for AW-style play? And if so, then what should the numbers, letters, colors and suits of those three cards mean? That's the question.

3. What I'm using now is actually more like Otherkind than AW: we basically set the stakes beforehand, so that the students know what the goals and dangers are, and then draw cards they can use to try and overcome the various obstacles. It's working okay for now, but if it's possible (and appropriate), I'd like to move to something where we don't have to set stakes beforehand, we can just say, "oh that's a move, narrate and draw the cards." You know -- "to do it, do it." Not, "to do it, first analyze all the possibilities, narrate your efforts and then see if they worked or not."

I tested a system where their card draws could add even more dangers and stuff, but it slowed down the game too much because we'd have to stop in the middle of a challenge to figure out new dangers.

blood & guts / ESL Hack: Apocalypse World for Chinese children
« on: November 06, 2010, 12:14:36 AM »
I'm working on a roleplaying game designed specifically as an activity that my students can use to learn English and have a good time doing it. I'm interested in any of you can give me some feedback for how to adapt the AW rules to this purpose. Obviously we wouldn't use the standard AW setting as it is, but something more kid-friendly. First, though, I'm interested in some questions about the rules themselves.

I've found the rules as they are have a 3 problems for ESL with children:

1. The moves are too dense in terms of language processing. For a native speaker to process a move just takes a few seconds and feels quite natural, but for a non-native speaker, it can be a real chore to parse it all, especially more idiomatic terms like "under fire," "read a sitch," and others. I have tried reducing the language to the simplest level possible, but it seems both too vague and too bland: "do something difficult" instead of "act under fire" for instance. I'd like to see if it's possible even to reduce it to a few strong words, drawn in a sort of mind-map or other diagram to show the choices visually instead of as text. Does anyone have an idea how to do this?

2. Cards work better than dice with these kids. Dice tend to get fiddled with a lot and it becomes a distraction, plus students always want to reroll negative results, but cards are final once they get turned over. I've tested both and cards seem like the way to go for me. Is it possible to adapt AW like mechanics to cards?

3. I'm using a system where students get to draw one card for each vocabulary word they use in their narration of how they try to solve a problem or do a move. It's more like Otherkind at the moment, and drawing more cards is sort of like rolling extra dice in that system. It lets me focus only on words instead of numbers, and this is something I'd like to try to keep in my system. Even stats like "cool +1" feel like too much math for my students -- I'd rather they focused on the words more, and I want the system to reward spontaneous language use.

If you have any ideas or suggestions about any of these questions, especially how to preserve the awesomeness of the AW system while still meeting these different needs, or apply some of the awesomeness of the AW system to another system that meets these needs, I'd love to hear them. Thanks in advance!

(As for the background of this project: I live in China, and I'm really enjoying this -- every week I have two classes where I get to playtest my game, and watch how my students, my game, and my own knowledge are all improving every time. I even get paid to do it. I'm hoping to develop this game to the point where I can publish it here and promote it as a tool for learning English, which is very popular in China right now.)

blood & guts / Split Decision
« on: November 01, 2010, 09:45:07 AM »
Daniel Solis came up with a neat idea he calls Split Decision:

It's a dice resolution system very close to that of Apocalypse World, except that instead of rolling just 2d6 and adding them together, you roll 4d6 and choose the two highest. The catch is that you're using 2d6 of one color (say, Blue), and 2d6 of another (say, Red), and the color of the two dice you choose has some sort of effect over the fiction or the mechanics of the game itself.

Has anyone thought of using this in AW? Can you imagine a way to do it that adds more than it takes away? Do you think it would add in too much cognitive decision making about the dice and distract too much from the game as it is meant to be played?

The first thought that came to my mind was actually a sort of Star Wars themed Apocalypse Galaxy, in which someone (such as a really nasty Sith Lord), has caused everything in the galaxy to go kerblooie, and now it's really hard to just scrape by anymore what with the pirates, raiders, and bounty hunters ruling the hyperspace lanes now. The Psychic Maelstrom would be the Force, naturally, and the Blue dice and Red dice would be the Light side and the Dark side, respectively.

blood & guts / Re: Sex moves => vulnerability moves
« on: October 16, 2010, 06:09:53 AM »
Interesting indeed. I suspect we're finding different sorts of meaning and importance in it. I'll be sure to report how this change works when I get the chance to try it out, whether it's more trivial or meaningful.

blood & guts / Re: Sex moves => vulnerability moves
« on: October 14, 2010, 11:12:43 PM »
Fnord: I think part of my issue is my own attitude toward sex, namely that it's not something to take lightly. It has a lot of meaning and importance, and if people treat it like just another drug or buzz, all that depth is lost. Maybe AW is all about that loss, but you know sometimes one form of loss or another just cuts too deep or gets too personal and you don't want it in your game in that form anymore.

Simon: that's a good point I hadn't thought of before. If we're roleplaying at the level of language, then we can introduce our characters' words directly into the fiction, and see what meaning it has right away because it's all just language, but when it comes to physical actions like kissing, obviously we're not doing that at the game table, just as we're not actually acting under fire or seizing by force at the table either. So we need a move mechanic to help us decide what the fictional effect of these things should be, because whatever's actually happening there can't just be demonstrated in an obvious way that everyone can immediately agree upon at the table.

Vincent, maybe that's why your gut says the act should be specific and concrete. It's about modeling something we can't actually see or do.

Incidentally, that's an essential purpose of conflict resolution systems, too -- to help us model conflicts between characters that don't actually exist between players. If characters agree, we all know what to do, because the players agree too, but when the characters disagree, we can use a system to help us work it out.

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