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Messages - tonydowler

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brainstorming & development / Re: Metamorphosis Alpha/Gamma World Hack
« on: March 20, 2012, 10:53:32 AM »
Yes! I posted about it on the Story Game Bite-sized AP (

I've been planning to post a long AP on my blog, but, well, life.

Here's the AP in full:

Metamorphosis Alpha!

Playing this with a light Apocalypse World hack.

Clyde-Bob is a human with a bricked iPhone and a mutant slave. Plunge Bob is also human. Quazzar is a winged horse with two brains. Chump is a huge mutated rabbit with armored plates and telekentic powers. They are off to the world of the gods to bring back an artifact and thus enter full adulthood as members of the tribe.

In the frozen mud plain beneath the 120' tall pile of shopping carts, Clyde-Bob convinces the lord of the chameleon crow people to become his vassal and sets up a potentially lucrative scrap metal mining operation. He then convinces a working domestic robot to become his personal chef.

Plunge-Bob and Quazzar penetrate the lost medical facility beyond the great radioactive slag aqueduct, defeat the security lockdown, decipher the mutagenic purge chamber, and transform Plunge-Bob into a genetically perfect specific of humanity.

Chump investigates the complex of endless apartment units, narrowly defeats the massive armored badger, and finds a functioning laser rifle for her new toy.

Of course when they returned with their artifacts, they found the ancient teleport device that brought them here un-powered and in need of repair--the likely focus of their next adventure.

This game is rife with weirdness and coolness in equal amounts. Every character had ample opportunity to be killed horribly, but they all pulled through and garnered great rewards in the process. The characters were set upon by a flock of possessive crow-folk almost instantly, causing them to immediately split up, which was a source of much interest.

The ability of humans to gain mutants as followers was exceptionally weird in play, as one Clyde-Bob set himself up as a combination slave lord and CEO. Unsurprisingly, this capability sets up instant human-mutant racism as a built-in function of the setting. Also unsurprisingly, the human PCs immediately used this ability on the mutant PCs and used them as riding animals. We just went with it, as this was already set up to be a very wacky, crazy game with more than a touch of satire involved. I think figuring out what to do with this setting element is a big issue with this game.

EDIT: posted up the AW hack we used to play this here:

brainstorming & development / Metamorphosis Alpha/Gamma World Hack
« on: March 16, 2012, 01:04:41 PM »
Alpha Hack is a partial Apocalypse World hack of James Ward's Metamorphosis Alpha, the game which also spawned Gamma World. I recommend buying James' game here:

I made this hack because I'm fascinated with Metamorphosis Alpha. I thought the game would be easier for me and my group to play with if we had an Apocalypse World style frame for it. Consequently, the moves are currently very stripped down. I hope to build them up a bit over time.

The rules for Alpha Hack are here:

In Metamorphosis Alpha you play humans, mutant humans, and mutant animals on a vast interstellar generation ship gone wrong. The crew is long dead and the inhabitants no longer even know they are on a space ship. Extensive biomes and creature samples brought from Earth have mutated into bizarre forms.

Dungeon World / Re: Fronts, Dangers, Portents and Dooms
« on: May 09, 2011, 01:52:33 PM »
I had a thought regarding "Impending Doom". I know it's supposed to be what happens if the dungeon is ignored, but sometimes I tend to treat it as how the Dungeon escalates it threat level, even as it's being explored, such as "the ritual begins", or "the volcano begins to erupt." I think of it as a holding place for things that might (or might not) happen depending if the dungeon is ignored or how it's approached.

Dungeon World / Re: Hirelings and Glory
« on: May 04, 2011, 06:22:09 PM »
We've found the costs to be interesting in our game so far too. The bard has promised to sing the praises of the priest hireling, keeping him happy (although the players had to do all the work while he gets the glory). Money, on the other hand, is hard to come by (so much so that the party is already adventuring for rent money as it is).*

I think DW is going to play very differently with different groups, and that's a good thing. The fact that the design is starting to underline different assumptions about what dungeon delving is says good things about the design I think.

* I hope I get to play my "When Grik comes to collect for the rent and you can't pay" move.

Dungeon World / Re: Catching up - What decisions were made?
« on: April 14, 2011, 05:54:15 PM »
When I run DW, I often have a stack of OD&D books by my side and use stuff liberally from them almost exactly as written. Running old-school adventures with DW is a breeze. Scaling issues might be an issue, especially at higher levels.

The up-side is that since DW is fiction first, you'll find that a lot of the things in OD&D that don't have mechanical backing in OD&D find that backing in DW. I find it's much easier to make monsters and situations come alive in DW than in OD&D.

Dungeon World / Re: Repetetive Tasks
« on: April 06, 2011, 03:56:04 PM »
What happens when the paladin lays on hands and rolls a 2? What hard move are you making?

Normally making more dice rolls in DW, even if the rolls are generating XP, isn't a big deal, because more rolls means creating more interesting and troubling situations for the PCs. That said, Lay on Hands has no downside and no particular DM input on a 7-9, unlike say a basic move.

An interesting fix might be:
10+ Choose 2 (you can choose the same twice)
- The target is healed of damage equal to your level
- The target is cured of a disease of your level or lower

7-9 Choose:
- One of the above
- Choose 2, but your god takes notice of you and the DM decides what they think.

Dungeon World / Re: What does Dodge do?
« on: April 04, 2011, 02:12:47 PM »
Yeah, what Sage said. If what he wants is to not get bit, that's what a 10+ gives.

Being knocked down is an interesting thing in the fiction. A 7-9 often involves someone getting knocked over or otherwise hindered in my game. Once they're down, I generally let them keep on fighting, but fictionally their other options are constrained unless they want to get up, which is usually a dodge.

Dungeon World / Re: Paladin Tank
« on: April 04, 2011, 02:05:01 PM »
Interestingly enough, this has come up in our game now as well. It's no game breaker, but certainly a potential annoyance. I'm going to see how the workardounds suggested here help.

Dungeon World / Re: DW AP - Barrow of the Iron King
« on: March 04, 2011, 01:37:57 PM »
Nice! I love how the adventurers receive an unearthly warning from beyond death to flee for their lives, then turn around and head gleefuly straight down into the barrows. :)

Dungeon World / Re: Clarifying "Make a Stand"
« on: February 17, 2011, 01:32:00 PM »
Another thought here and something we do in our game from time to time:

"damage" can also be an abstract concept, like "danger". So in this case, the halflings "damage" could be hacking the enemy to bits, but it could also be forcing them to hesitate, stand down, or fall into confusion.

So, for example, one could imagine a halfling "taking a stand" to cow a single charging goblin into abandoning his charge. Stretch that to "all enemies" thanks to the effect of rolling a 10+, and you have one brave halfling cowing an entire attacking platoon, which is also cool.

I also heartily endorse just hacking them to bits too. That's cool D&D stuff right there.

Dungeon World / Re: Handling Hirelings
« on: February 17, 2011, 12:45:16 PM »
Oh yeah! I totally forgot about promoting and demoting.

Also, there's a house rule I've used to some good effect. When your hirelings fight alongside you, they do damage equal to their level each round (maybe +1 if you've armed them well, +any magical bonuses due to spells or magic weapons). When a monster fights a hireling one-on-one, the monster does their hit dice in damage (minus armor, minimum one).

One handy effect of this is that when the party charges into a room and pair off with opponents, there's an easy, low book-keeping way to track what's happeneing off in the corner where Joe the Spear Carrier is fighting Goblin #4.

Dungeon World / Re: Handling Hirelings
« on: February 16, 2011, 04:36:25 PM »
Yeah, the first rule of Apocalypse World "to do it, do it" definitely applies!

Dungeon World / Re: Hit points and Harm Countdowns
« on: February 16, 2011, 01:54:44 PM »
Yeah, that's a neat idea. I like the concept of "bloodied" as a generally useful one. I've noticed that we've started using the term in our other games.

Dungeon World / Re: Handling Hirelings
« on: February 16, 2011, 01:08:32 PM »
OK, I'm just now arriving (late) to this thread. I love all these ideas. I don't have much of a method to how I handle hirelings myself. And I don't think there is any one way to handle hirelings that will satisfy the OD&D aesthetic completely. All the early D&D editions were silent/confusing/unhelpful regarding hirelings, and as a result we've got decades of divergent traditions on how to handle hirelings.

That said, all the stuff about costs, missions, and so on sounds pretty fabulous. I'd love to have those tools in my Dungeon World/ApocD&D game.

I think what's probably called for is some thought about how the hireling rules support the principles of the game, or perhaps reveal new potential principles that we hadn’t thought about before.

Sage's game has "Leave blanks" and "describe everyone" as principles. Gangs are a spectacular tool to achieve just this. A gang is just a blank that the character is directly tied to, and that is full of characters just waiting for the change to step forward and be described. So when the PC orders his un-paid troop of hirelings into the Dragon's Den and rolls a 7-9 on some move, that's when a particular hirelings steps forwards and says something like, "uh, thing is boss, my names Lucio, and I kind of speak for the rest, and we've been thinking..." Gangs are my single favorite thing in Apocalypse World, by the way, both as a player and MC, for this very reason.

"Describe everyone": I think this also means that specialists have names and goals and personalities. This can be super-super simple (leave blanks); in fact simpler is better, I think.

Making the world real is a very important principle here. It means making the hirelings reasonable people. Asking them to do what's reasonable on a dungeon-delving expedition is normal. Asking them to take particularly crazy risks is a move of some sort.

"Be a fan of the characters": as I see it, this principle means that hirelings are not there to do things FOR the PCs, but rather a way for the PCs to do more interesting stuff. This means that hirelings should supplement or modify what the PCs can do, but not do things for them. So you might use your hirelings as a weapon to hack and slash, or you might order them to unite and fight for you. So a hireling should never be framed as an extra move the player has access to, though it might be a move that they use when they want the NPC to do something for them, or to help them. This is just like the moves to make your gang do stuff in Apocalypse World.

Having prices attached to hirelings sounds great! Apocalypse World says "make them pay." This is the way to do it.

Also, hirelings are resources to be consumed! Dwindling resources are a big part of the OD&D aesthetic. Not only do hirelings get killed off, but they run out of spells, get hungry, and so on. "Use their resources" is one of Sage's moves, and here's where hirelings make it powerful.

On both of these fronts, hirelings are something that let the PCs go deeper into the dungeon and survive longer than they would otherwise. This is a good thing.

Looking at hirelings through crosshairs (if your game has that princple) is pretty obvious. Killing a hireling as your move as the DM is powerful. On the one hand, the PCs are relieved that they were not the target. On the other hand, Rembrant just got flayed alive by a nightgaunt right before their eyes! Thos moments are golden, and also a great time for the DM to be evil.

When I use hirelings in ApocD&D, I follow a few simple rules of thumb.
- Each hireling has a simple personality. I use random and generators I've grabbed from the Web.
- I add needs, missions, moods, and so on as the DM principles demand and when I make my move as a result of a failed roll (especially if it’s a roll to order hirelings)
- Unless my principles or moves dictate otherwise, the hirelings do what they're told, within reason.
- Hirelings are always 1 level below PC level (at least), and level up when the PC levels up. I allow hirelings to do 1 class-appropriate thing per day per their level (like a cleric healing or blessing).

Sounds like you had a good game! I can answer a few of these, but some of the other folks may be better for answering others.

On a 7-9 reversing one of the success items is a good technique. Another is to introduce a complication which invites them to continue to defy danger or otherwise make moves. For example, you defy danger to snatch the idol from the altar, rolling a 7-9. So now you have the idol, but you're pinned down behind it by arrow fire. That creates an interesting choice, like do I defy danger to try and brave the arrows? Or do I do something else?

However, don't try to make every single 7-9 result the best narrative twist ever. Causing some damage or letting the monster make him move, for example, are often excellent choices. Just look for the most obvious result that follows naturally from what's going on in the situation.

Yes, I think you just roll +bonds when helping.

For prep, I usually just design a dungeon like normal. I tend to treat the current adventure as a traditional adventure while everything else going on in the world beyond I treat as being like a set of AW fronts and threats. I'm not sure that's the best way, though.

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