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Apocalypse World / Playbook focus: The Hocus
« on: August 24, 2013, 01:32:17 PM »

Now it should be crystal fucking obvious that the gods have abandoned
Apocalypse World. Maybe in the golden age, with its one nation under god
and its in god we trust, maybe then the gods were real. Fucked if I know. All I
know is that now they’re gone daddy gone.
My theory is that these weird hocus fuckers, when they say “the gods,” what
they really mean is the miasma left over from the explosion of psychic hate
and desperation that gave Apocalypse World its birth. Friends,
that’s our
creator now.

The Hocus is visionary leader of 20 or so loyal but not fanatical followers. The Hocus brings meaning to his followers, and in return they bring him profit and surplus at good times, but also wants and needs at bad times. He is a primarily Weird character.
Graphic content

My take on it:
First of all, the Hocus can be many things to his followers. His followers can be his cult, his scene, his family, his staff, his students or his court. Two things are for certain, though:

One, the Hocus somehow brings meaning to his followers, he explains the world and preach to his followers how to transcend their pitiful lives through him, whether it be by study, compassion or orgies.

Two, if you're one of his followers, you can't have a real relationship to the Hocus. See, whatever his followers wish for deep down in their hearts, they project onto the Hocus. The Hocus is not a real person like they are, he is an elevated symbol, he is chosen, enlightened, perfect, a vessel for their desires. When Weaver Bird meets his followers, his followers doesn't meet Weaver Bird the person, they meet their own desires, what they need him to be for them.

See, no matter what you preach to your followers, you preach to their infantile wish of the Id. You preach to the part of their psyche that are still babies, that wish to become one with you, the perfect parent, and never feel pain, fear or hunger again. And you become one by walking the path, joining the sect, losing yourself in incest, bestiality, bloody sacrifice,  singing together or what have you.

Even if you preach to your followers to embrace the doctrines of guilt, shame, transcendance, discipline, purity, perfection or holiness, that also points to the Id – Because these are exactly the things that confirm that yes, there is uncontrolled, dangerous and bad desire within you, and yes, you must control and repress it. The concept of Purity always exists in reflection to the concept of Sin. Seriously, if you tell us that your cult preach purity and abstinance, isn't your first impulse to then add ”And also, there are orgies”? It can't just be me!

I mean, just look at nun porn! Nuns are off-limits, that just makes them HOTTER!

As a side note, I see a lot of innocent (creepy!) little girls as Hocuses, is that your experience too?

Every time a player picks up the Hocus, I get giddy and anticipative to see what they make out of it, because it is so sexy. Not sexy like the Skinner that wears hot clothes on a hot body or anything, but sexy like Id and sexy like sexuality. Take the Hocus and you'll mean everything to your followers. That is raw. That is real power!
I did not get the Hocus until I watched Conan, then it clicked.

But you'll also raise the stakes like hell up. Whip people into a frenzy, and they might get out of control. Be everything for your followers and they will expect everything from you and suffer the cruellest of disappointments and the hottest of rage when you fail them. Take sons and daughters and fathers and mothers will want them back. Preach the ultimate truth and someone contradicting it will get in your way. And just by going into what  desire and humanity is, you raise the stakes, lose a little control. If the Hocus makes you feel a little flustered or nervous, you're doing it right!
Stupid fucking crude Gunlugger.

Now I've only shown you videos of the Hocus getting offed, I feel bad. I can recommend a look at Kundun for some inspiring imagery surrounding a take on the Hocus that instead shows the compassion and reverence of religion:

Because, you know, your cult doesn't need to be a pretext for a goat-fucking man-sacrificing club (or goat-sacrificing man-fucking club for that matter) it can also be a very loving and deeply connected congregation of believers or students. Everything I've said about desire, the elevated status of the Hocus as a vessel for his followers projections and infantile wishes for unity still applies – I mean, a wish for a loving family might be ”infantile”, but is not an ugly or unnatural thing, it is a very beautiful thing!

Where the Operator, the Hardholder, the Chopper and the Maestro 'D gather followers around them for economical reasons, band together for barter, the Hocus connect others to him on a deeper level, a level we might have a hard time to grasp as secular westerners. Whether your Hocus and his followers are a thing you consider beautiful or ugly, I'd say the Hocus is always human. It's a lonely world out there, and psychologically we are pack animals, we need close relationships to survive, we crave an unambivalent group to feel safe, we need a purpose to feel happy. Bring a Hocus into the world of the apocalypse, and you get to explore that humanity through the interactions with his followers, and the truth he preaches.

Let's go back to Apocalypse Now and see what Kurtz has to say to make sense of the world he sees around him:

Why the Hocus is the best playbook to play:
The power of flesh is the real power!

Also, you get a big say in what the psychic maelstrom is like with your +2weird, and you get to make big claims about the world what with your prophetic stature and all.

And, of course, you get to the wonderful needs of your followers, without which you would be nothing.

What it brings to the world of the apocalypse:
So there is the dimension of humanity, through desire, disappointment and community, I've mentioned that. Also, if your Hocus manages to touch your desires as players and make you a little flustered or lustful in some way, that can really add to the ambience. Finally, since the Hocus followers live lives integrated in outside society, that can create some really interesting PC-NPC-triangles, like maybe the Gunlugger is a follower, or maybe some of the Hardholders liutenants or the Maestro 'D staff are followers.

Fundamental scarcities of the playbook:
I honestly have a hard time thinking of one. Oh, one of my players' first reactions to reading the hocus was a straight-face ”I can't imagine how you would have any problems with a cult at your disposal?”

Don't be that player. :D Trust me, followers' expectations on you are going to get you in a world of trouble soon enough.

Oh, and try to get at least one player characters to be your follower, so you don't end up antagonizing everyone with your fucked up shit.

Moves and crap analysis:
Fortunes is the core of the Hocus. Note that you roll+1 unless you get the Commerce option for your followers. Augury and Insight are also pretty cool options for your followers. Divine Protection is good for a character that walks around unarmed in a robe most of the time. Fucking whacknut, Charismatic and Seeing souls are pretty self-explanatory. You weird, weird good.

Concerning other playbook moves, there are a whole bunch of ones that roll+weird and could potentially fit with your concept. Healing touch is a given, and Dangerous & sexy is what you need to get if you want to play Thulsa Doom. Visions of Death and Bonefeel are good moves for a spooky Hocus, and Spooky Intense if you're planning to go into danger. Unnatural lust transfixion, Casual brain receptivity, Lost, Sticky fingers and Appraising eye are great for pulling strings and getting what you want. 

The Brainer moves Deep brain scan and In-brain puppet strings and Direct-brain whisper projection are probably hella useful for you, but I would stay out of Brainer territory, I feel it would cheapen what the Hocus is.

Fucking thieves is for a gang, but if your MC allows it, it could be a fun way to scrape by with your followers. Leadership is also a gang move, but pretty freaking cool if you want to take your followers to war. Reputation could be a nice move to set you up as an essential contact people have to deal with in the hold. Oftener right is also good for connecting you with others.

Relationships and dynamics:
Some questions to ask the Hocus to nuance faith and followers: What is the scariest moment of your life, what do you fear today? What is your weakness? What is your strength? Do you believe everything you preach? What do you desire? Who is your favorite follower? Who where your first followers, and when did that happen? What where your parents like?

The Angel is a good enemy. They are a grounded character with a low weird score, and benefit from some force to combat, and not just injury and disease. Your potentially irrational and self-destructive followers could be a thankful foil to them. Likewise with the Operator, who nevertheless is a good third party to get things done for you that you cannot get done through your followers, or must be kept discrete.

The Battlebabe or Gunlugger could be a follower or an enemy. I wouldn't trust them, though. The Faceless? I would trust them as a follower, unquestionly!

The mere existence of the Brainer is likely an inconvience to you at least – Here's some weirdo going around controlling people, just like you! Only thing is, they don't claim to bring truth or meaning to their lives. Isn't that proof against your truth, if someone can twist that truth with their mind powers? If they are a follower, I would probably put them behind the curtains. Would love to hear how you did it though! The Hardholder is also a natural enemy of sorts, here is someone claiming peoples loyalty and telling them what to do – That's your thing!

The Skinner is also a potential rival in that they control people with emotional strings. Or they might the master of ceremonies at your place, with sacrifices, sex ceremonies or blood art as their art! Your cult just got twice as hot!

Consider mixing your followers with the Chopper's gang for an eventful pilgrimage!

The Savvyhead needs connections to the world, so consider making yourself dependent on them. The easy way is to have them, supply a drug or substance you use in your ceremonies. The Hoarder and the Maestro 'D can also fill this niché, the Hoarder could do real well as a local resident of your church, actually. And just like the Skinner, the Maestro 'D is potentially a hot rival for followers, might lull your followers into inaction with sex, drugs or booze.

The Quarantine and the Touchstone are to be feared or conquered.

Apocalypse World / Re: Playbook focus: The Gunlugger
« on: August 22, 2013, 05:26:33 PM »
The best part about having a Gunlugger in the game is watching the player slowly realize that he can't kill his way out of every problem... and in fact, the current problem is a direct result of him killing someone. The same holds true for the Skinner or Hocus realizing they can't talk their way out of this one. It's delightful to watch the Gunlugger thrashing about like "just tell me who to shoot to fix this!" And his friends have to be like "I don't think that's gonna work this time."

I notice that some play advice seems to re-occur as I write these focus articles, and one of them is to mix challenges for the characters: Both the ones where they really shine, and those that put them in a vulnerable position, where they need to do things outside their expertise or trust someone else to help them with it. Anyway, i think this is particularly prominent with the Gunlugger.

Think I'll write up 2-3 principles of my own once these focus articles are finished.

Apocalypse World / Re: Playbook focus: The Gunlugger
« on: August 22, 2013, 05:23:06 PM »
I've lurked on these boards for a long time but I've only just now registered to tell you that these playbook focus threads are really cool and I hope you keep doing them. Thank you!

I second this!

Thank you guys! This made my day!

Apocalypse World / Playbook focus: The Gunlugger
« on: August 20, 2013, 05:45:15 AM »

Apocalypse World is a mean, ugly, violent place. Law and society have broken down completely. What’s yours is yours only while you can hold it in your hands. There’s no peace. There’s no stability but what you carve, inch by inch, out of the concrete and dirt, and then defend with murder and blood. Sometimes the obvious move is the right one.

The Gunlugger has the best weapons, the most weapons and the best armor. Their moves are focused on survival and violence. Their primary stat is Hard. Simply put, no-one can stand up to the Gunlugger in a fight. When it comes to social competence, they're shit.

My take on it:
The Gunlugger is both simple and tricky. Simple in that it is completely obvious what it is about. We live with a culture of violence surrounding us. Action films, action video games, and action roleplaying games, all abound with gunluggers. There is a lot of familarity with violent men (and to a lesser extent, women) to draw from, and Apocalypse World is a violent place where guns are often an obvious solution.

The tricky part is making a very violent and powerful character work in a world where everyone has a name and relationships to other people, where a persons death has consequences. Even evil men who are out to kill, plunder and rape you and your friends, and these men are of no scarcity in the post apocalypse, have friends and a place in the world. Their death might bring vengeance, bitterness, and chaos in the power vacuum.

The Gunlugger should kill! The Gunlugger should destroy! And the Gunlugger should threaten with death and destruction!

It is her nature, her strength, it is awesome, and it brings good drama. You can try not to kill and hurt people around you, but you'd be in a world of trouble for it, as you would be laying down your one strength, your one means of survival. You can delay it, get your results by going aggro rather than siezing by force, restraining your power. But your power will be there, waiting for you to unleash it.

As long as the threat of violence is just something implied, kept in check by restraint, you can let this tension build, like a storm slowly building up. Building tension like this with rival characters and NPCs who are also powerful and Hard works great.

See, this is the beautiful dilemma of the Gunlugger. Violence begets violence, but survival also begets violence. When you use your guns you rule supreme, but you also also invite chaos and loss of control. Chaos, since you can never predict how the immediate moments will play out (even Gunluggers miss!) and neither can you predict how the aftermath will play out. Vengeance, power vacuum, collateral damage, and new scarcities are all potential snowballing threats when killing someone. Savour the tension that is the Gunlugger's life!

Unless of course, your Gunlugger is a sociopath who wouldn't give a damn about anything, in which case, begone! Begone from my focus thread! I can teach you nothing more, go forth and be glorious!

Why the Gunlugger is the best playbook to play:
You're the hardest there is! If your definition of a cool rpg character is that they can kick butt, you're going to be the coolest of them all. If you don't mind the consequences, if you're not one for subtlety, you can exterminate any NPC you dislike from the face of the earth, and you can bully around any character with your guns and not give a fuck. Excerting power through hotness, weirdness or sharpness is a lot more demanding on player, but behing Hard is simple. You can give a beating and take a beating, if you love playing hardball with the MC, this is the one for you.

What it brings to the world of the apocalypse:
Sudden, brutal death. Also, interesting tension between characters, especially other Hard characters. And make sure to keep a kill count, that tends to be interesting!

Fundamental scarcities of the playbook:
The Gunlugger needs enough resistance to play with. A singular tough NPC won't faze them as a threat, as an MC you need to think in terms of gangs of enemies, well-equiped and coordinated death squads, raiders mounted on trucks or bikes, fortified bunkers, mobs of disgruntled post-apocalyptic denizens, guys with knives and pipewrenches attacking the Gunlugger naked and unarmed in her bed, tanks, monsters, mechas or robots. Don't be afraid of dealing a little harm (i.e making them mad), they can take it. Consider the Gunlugger an invitation to harm. Having your Gunlugger face truely frightening opposition and having them get hurt in the process only serves to make them look more badass.

Also, give them trouble that they can't solve through violence, and trouble that they could solve through violence but they'd rather not.

Remember that moves are not magic, and neither is armor. I had a Gunlugger with 2-armor sieze a gang by force by calmly walking up to their leader and smacking him. The gang was firing guns for all their worth at her, but the player choose to suffer little harm and with armor took no harm at all. While this served to make the character look absolutely frightening (which is good), I think it lowered the stakes of the world in the long run. Instead, play firefights like a real thing. Armor wont help you if you give your enemies every opportunity to take aim at your face. Sieze by force is when you use your outmost capability as a Hard person to take your objective. Suffer little harm is taking cover and a measure of luck, not standing straight up in the firing field. Heck, you might even argue that sieze by force is not possible to use in such a situation, you might ask the player to get into a position where it is feasable first. Don't be a dick, though. Be honest with your playes, and they'll appriciate the reality and trustworthiness of the world. Remember the words of the prophet: Fiction first, and To do it, do it!

Finally, do not be intimidated by your player playing a weapon of mass destruction, explore it and draw out the tension, the awesome and humanity out of it, and remember to look at your NPCs through crosshairs.

Moves and crap analysis:
True to her name, the Gunlugger is a walking armory. The weight of her gear should not be underestimated: Firstly, she get a fuck-off big gun, sniper rifle, machine gun, assault rifle or grenade launcher. Find yourself on the wrong end of that gun, and I'd call your chances of survival slim at best. Secondly, she gets two serious guns and/or gun upgrades, and finally a backup weapon: 9mm, big-ass knife, machete, grenades or an infinite number of knives; Picture the scene in The Dark Night where the police officer body-searches the Joker.

Though you're Hard, your Hot score is terrible, so socially you're something of a train wreck. If you want to benefit from your special move, I guess you're going to need a wingman.

Battle-hardened is quite powerful as you want to roll well on Acting under fire. Fuck this shit and Prepared for the inevitable are super-useful for survivability. Battlefield instincts could really give flair to your character if you use it consistently. Bloodcrazed raises the tension of violence even more, as it makes you even deadlier. NOT TO BE FUCKED WITH is not only a move with a sweet as hell name, but a move that changes scale: You go from being a guy on a battlefield to counting as a small gang. Awesome if your game has a lot of large-scale battles. ”Okay, so here's the chopper gang, here's the people trying to hold the palissade, and here's Uncle's armored force” ”What's that over there?” ”Oh, that's Fido”. Remember, it's only for real battles though!

Regarding other playbook moves, The Battlebabe, The Touchstone and The Operator are good places to look. Dangerous & Sexy and Perfect instincts can raise your character's presence when entering a room, Visions of death makes her more of a weird angel of death, Impossible reflexes lets you play a scantily clad Gunlugger. The Touchstone moves are all good too, if you want to go in that direction. The Operator's Moonlighting is attractive to me, just because I like the idea of a Gunlugger conducting (or trying to conduct) business in an orderly and professional manner. Reputation can also be a good pick to find other dimensions to your Gunlugger, and Easy to trust is good if you want to be able to at least manage yourself in social negotiation. The Hardholder's Leadership is a good addition if you get a gang together. The Quarantine's Disciplined engagement is wicked useful, if the MC lets you pick it - In a way it loses the tension and unconditional consequences of violence. If you want to play up yourself as unstoppable, take a look at the Faceless moves. NOT TO BE FUCKED WITH + Indomitable + Oh yeah! would make you a true force of nature.
Relationships and dynamics:
To create contrast, I like to ask Gunluggers about their ordinary life. ”What's the place where you sleep like?” ”What is your morning routine?” ”What is your favorite meal?” ”How do you relax?” ”What is your pet?” ”What is your favorite trinket or posession?” ”Who do you like or admire?” ”Who makes you awkward?” There's just something about the daily life of a killer that still is fascinating to me, and it helps ground the Gunlugger in a relationship to the world and people around him.

A Driver with a tank, with the guns manned by a Gunlugger is probably the scariest thing you'll encounter in Apocalypse World, so consider doing just that. The Angel could also be your best friend. The Hocus could be your monstrosity and humanity if you joined their cult. The Hoarder could be a source of jobs and weapon deals for you – Just wait until they get it into their head they have to procure your fuck-off gun for their collection! Your relationship with The Quarantine could also become a classic – I'm thinking good cop / bad cop!

The Skinner and the Maestro D', there's some great potential for contrast. Maybe they're the only one you trust. Maybe they're the only one with power over you.

The Hardholder and The Chopper might not individually be as tough as you are, but they're backed up with gangs with lots of hurt. Should it come to deadly blows, they can keep toe-to-toe with you and kill you, but not before you kill them or have their gang suffer severe losses. This makes them interesting rivals. I played a game as a Chopper, and the Gunlugger was a constant source of unease. The last thing I wanted was open confrontation, but I also refused to yield to him to remain an authority to my gang. That made for some great, tense, roleplaying. The Faceless too, could probably bring you down in a suicide attack if you incurred his wrath. The Quarantine could be your best worst enemy if you're ideologically opposed.

Consider working for the Operator or the Savvyhead. A Savvyhead with real military power to back them up could make a really interesting presence in the world of the apocalypse.
I was going to open this focus with this clip, until I realized William Blake is not the Gunlugger. He is the Battlebabe with Visions of Death. For Johnny Depp playing a Gunlugger, watch him as John Dillinger in Public Enemies.

Apocalypse World / The Driver
« on: August 16, 2013, 12:14:40 AM »

Came the apocalypse, and the infrastructure of the Golden Age tore apart.
Roads heaved and split. Lines of life and communication shattered. Cities,
cut off from one another, raged like smashed anthills, then burned, then

A few living still remember it: every horizon scorching hot with civilization
in flames, light to put out the stars and moon, smoke to put out the sun.

In Apocalypse World the horizons are dark, and no roads go to them.

The Driver has a car, which provides mobility and protection. Her stats are a click subpar to the other playbooks, but when doing moves from behind the wheel she gains the upper hand through awesome bonuses. She has no obvious connections to the world, as a matter of fact her Hx and special move makes her out as explicitly a loner.
The Journey, Book of Eli

My take on it:
I am no expert on the Driver, having MC'd a Driver for a grand total of one single session. Furthermore, as I try to get to know the Driver, try to pin her down, I get a sense that she escapes my grasp, just as she escapes responsibilities and relationships in the fiction.

On one hand, the Driver cannot claim to be the strongest or most important playbook. On the other hand, when she is behind the wheel, backed up by her A no shit driver move,  she is among the most effective, stat-wise.

On one hand, the Driver is independent, a loner. On the other hand, as she controls the dimension of mobility (Rivalled only by the Chopper, who nevertheless has to take the management of his gang into account) and the engine power and metal protection of a car, she is excellent at backing other characters up and potentially has a monopoly on the business of transporting things, people and messages.

And on one hand, the Driver embodies freedom, and on the other hand she is helplessly bound to her vehicle, bound to the simple facts that her vehicle needs gas in the tank, whole tires and her behind the wheel.

I suppose one could say all roads are open to her. She must decide, and be her own driving force. (oh god, the puns!)

So, first of all, both as a player and MC, ask your Driver why she is a Driver, what she wants to do. If she wants to be an action hero, the MC should set her environment up with injustice and violence that only a righteous daredevil backed up by horsepower can set right. Be generous with what you can do in a car – Let her crash down barricades, run over people, do drive-bys and hit and runs.

If she has a more humble vision of exploring relationships with other characters and the Driver's approach-reject dynamic, set her up with interesting NPCs with humanity and complexity. If she wants to explore the post-apocalyptic world itself, prepare to really barf forth apocalyptica on the roads and the landscape. Your Driver just signaled she wishes to have the landscape and the car as her lovers, so make them into interesting characters for her. Make the landscape beautiful, cruel, kind, mysterious, fickle, harsh and/or wonderful.

Or, instead of making strong choices before play, you could stay open and curious and get to know the Driver as you find a balance between these things. The Driver makes for an interesting and complex protagonist, but is easily overshadowed by more direct playbooks. You also might want to set trouble up for the Driver at driving distance, so the Gunlugger won't just come and level the place. Or, you could trust this very balance of the Driver: Perhaps she sees and cares about what the battle-hardened Gunlugger does not? You could potentially turn your apocalypse into a game of Dogs in the Vineyard with your Driver as the righteous dog on the road.

For some reason, I have a hard time imagining the Driver as a ruthless psychopath, even though reckless driving is a diagnostic criteria for antisocial personality disorder, but maybe that's just me. Go for it, If that's your brew! Remember that metal is hard, flesh is soft, and running people over could be judged as armor piercing harm.

I guess my main point is that you should really let the presence of the Driver influence the setup of the game. See, this is one of my very favorite moments of Apocalypse World, the moment the playbooks are chosen, the moment where the game is born. What game will it be this time? A weird, crude, subtle, small or grand game? The focus and the capabilities of playbooks dictate what the game will be about, and when a player picks up the Driver, you all need to listen up and pay attention to this flighty little playbook and make an apocalypse that's as much about the Driver as the Hardholder or the Maestro D'. Let your mind wander to the world and genre tropes of Mad Max and Knight Rider, and... Actually, those are pretty lame. Make your own driver tropes instead.
Mad Max 2, opening scene

Why the Driver is the best playbook to play:
You get to drive cars on roads, cars and roads are awesome. Like the Faceless and the Battlebabe, noone can hold you. You can run through obstacles and be gone on the road before anyone can stop you. If people want to go somewhere far, somewhere fast or somewhere safe, they come to you.

What it brings to the world of the apocalypse:
The Driver brings a grander scale to the world and makes distances a real thing. With the right attention and barf the landscape too will come alive. The MC might want to make sure that distances and travelling is a difficult or dangerous thing for most to let the Driver really shine, and create an interesting dynamic of other characters relying on the Driver for transportation.

Fundamental scarcities of the playbook:
So, I've spent this focus telling you to really pay attention and care to the Driver and her motivations, so that's a given. Of course, that goes both as an MC and a player. Find your motivation and connection to other characters! The Driver's dynamic of escaping connections won't work unless there are also connections drawing her in, yeah?

Another thing you might want to try if the Driver spends most of her time driving in silence is agressive scene framing to cut between the potent moments and meetings with others - If the Driver is indeed rootless, she could end up anywhere. Cut to the Driver arriving when the slavers just torched the village. Cut to the Driver on a cliff overseeing the secret deal between the Brainer and the Hardholder. Cut to the Driver meeting the devil in the desert.

And remember: Cars and roads are awesome. Make the landscape alive. Barf forth apocalyptica.

Moves and crap analysis:
So you've got a great car. Maybe ask the Savvyhead if you can owe him a favour for having rigged a remote-control device for your car?

A no shit driver is your lifeblood. Too bad any other character can get that move and be an even more awesome driver than you, seeing as they have better stats from the start. To be honest, that's kind of lame, so you might want to ask your MC to somehow restrict that move for other characters. Jonatan used the rule that if you wish to pick a move from a playbook in play, you have to ask that player first.

Seeing as you have an advantage at the basic moves while in your car, you can look forward to The ungiven future and expanding those moves!

What about the other moves? Good in the clinch is great, as anyone wants to be good at acting under fire, especially a daredevil Driver. Weather eye is also a good deal to improve your brain-opening. Daredevil is also great as it protects you, your car and those following you. and one more move. My other car is a tank speaks for itself. Hey, maybe get Collector and ask the MC if you can have an helicopter?  Moonlighting is awesome if you have a hard time finding things to do, and you can get it without using up your ”pick a move from other playbook” allowance – Yay!

Concerning other playbook moves, there are actually a whole lot of interesting ones for you!

The Skinner move Hypnotic is perfect for you. It means everyone taking an extended ride has a chance of becoming fixated with you, and then helping you out with stuff. And if you sex, you might have to stay away from them because it's awkward. Ha ha! Brilliant.

Likewise, if you ride a motorbike or anything else where the passenger has to scoot up next to you, ask the MC if you can use the Brainer moves Deep brain scan and In-brain puppet strings on the same terms! Eugh.

Professional compassion is another way to benefit from your good Sharp and could make a good dramatic turning point for a lonesome Driver opening up to others. Reputation and Lost could also help you get friends.

The Savvyhead has some interesting moves: Bonefeel is great for aformentioned scene framing, Things speak lets you get a closer relationship with your car, and Reality's fraying edge could turn your car into a ghostmobile!

Indomitable is a pretty cool move to have on a battlefield, it let's you cancel attacks, neutralize guys and appear where you need to be. Now imagine doing that, only you're also in a car!

If you want to prove that you're badass, take a look at the Gunlugger moves Bloodcrazed, Insano like Drano or NOT TO BE FUCKED WITH. Prepared for the inevitable might save your life when no Angel is around, and Oh yeah is good for improving your smashthroughability. Get Visionary and Towering presence if you want to play Dogs in the Vineyard in Apocalypse World.

Relationships and dynamics:
Questions to create a relationship to others: ”Who could you never stand losing?” ”Who do you owe your life? Who owes their life to you? Who do you desire?”
Questions to create a relationship to your car: ”What does it smell like inside your car? What is the prettiest thing on the inside of your car? What is uncomfortable about riding in your car?”
Questions to create a relationship to the world: ”What place do you keep returning to? What place do you avoid? What is the first thing you see/hear when you approach this place?”

Consider for a second framing the game as a mobile one, centered around a caravan (led by a Hardholder, Chopper or neither) or a Hardhold placed on a train or ship.

Or just cram a Battlebabe, a Skinner and an Operator into a car, and hit the road. Maybe the Quarantine has a water ship you need to go get. Maybe the Touchstone or the Hocus has a pilgrimage you need to take them on, and you got the premise for a little campaign right there.

The Skinner probably has as many complicated relationships as you do. Get a complicated relationship with them! The dynamics with this character could potentially go any god given direction, but I think it would be interesting. Remember what I said about Hypnotic?

The Savvyhead, the Operator and the Angel might really benefit from your services and just like you they need friends to play with. The Hardholder could probably use you too, but can you stand working for The Man?

Make awesome friends with the Savvyhead and have them make your car awesome.

The Battlebabe is a free spirit, just like you, and potentially smells better than the Gunlugger or Faceless. Good potential for teamwork or messy relationships there.

The Chopper is the one character you'll probably keep running into. Makes a great rival if you don't join his gang.

Well, I'd be damned!

Apocalypse World / Re: Playbook expansion: The Vatlord
« on: August 15, 2013, 04:52:33 PM »
The default trait bank:

vat dependent

Now the Vatlord must go around collecting samples and the Vatborn will have an uncanny likeness to established characters.


Apocalypse World / Re: Playbook focus: The Brainer
« on: August 14, 2013, 05:45:55 AM »
The thing that made me curious is why the brainer starts of as a rich kid with 5 barter?

Quote from page 37:

If you're charging someone wealthy for your services, 1-barter is the going rate for: one successful deep brain scan; one in-brain puppet command, upon its execution; one week's employ as kept brainer.

Easy money!

I could picture the Brainer as a greedy collector or detached and uninterested in the physical reality - Barter is a side-effect to doing mindfuckery, so it tends to pile up. Or s/he just whisper into peoples brains to give him/her their barter.

Apocalypse World / Playbook focus: The Brainer
« on: August 13, 2013, 10:12:01 AM »
Varje tisdag och fredag postar jag en artikel om en av Apocalypse World's playbooks. Idag har turen kommit till The Brainer.

[size:23pt]The Brainer[/size]

Brainers are the weird psycho psychic mindfucks of Apocalypse World. They have brain control, puppet strings, creepy hearts, dead souls, and eyes like broken things. They stand in your peripheral vision and whisper into your head, staring. They clamp lenses over your eyes and read your secrets. They’re just the sort of tasteful accoutrement that no well-appointed hardhold can do without.

Brainers are post-apocalyptic psychics, with the ability to read and twist the minds of others. Their primary stat is weird, and they tend to be creepy outcasts. They also have a lot of barter and powerful gear.
Psycho Mantis

My take on it:
My god, what's not to love about the Brainer? I don't even know what needs to be said about them, more than any playbook I think it speaks for itself. Just look at the words coming out of this playbook: ”weird psycho psychic mindfucks”, ”unnatural lust transfixion” ”preternatural at-will brain attunement”, ”direct-brain whisper projection”, ”in-brain puppet strings” ”pain-wave projector”, ”violation glove”. To me, these words communicate everything, in a clinical and science-speaky kind of way. While the Hocus is religiously weird and the Savvyhead is intuitively weird, the Brainer is clinically weird.

The game paints the Brainer as an outcast, inhuman, separate from the rest of humanity. Not strange really, if you look to what the brainer do, they fuck with brains. That is in itself creepy and inhuman! What would it do to you to be able to read and manipulate other people's minds? It would turn other people and their minds into tools that could be used, into means rather than ends in itself. Just like bodies can turn into mere business for someone working with modeling or surgery, seeing bodies every day, seeing how they work, learning how to make of them what you wish, minds and souls would turn into business for the Brainer. ”Kindness”, ”Rage”, ”Fear”, ”Madness” and so on would no longer be the existential stuff of life, but rather just words, qualities that could sometimes be beneficial and sometimes an obstacle for the goal of your current mindfuck project.

So the question is rather, can you make a social and kindhearted brainer? And would you enjoy it? We had a nice and kind brainer in one of our games hiding her powers and posing as the Angel, which also worked, as it created another kind of alienation and solitude through lies and charade. But I feel that alienation should always be a part of the package, mind control should never be an ”okay” thing. The Brainer special move is excellent for this purpose: When the Brainer sleep with someone, he reads them with a deep brain scan, whether he wants to or not, making ”normal” intimacy impossible to the Brainer, and whatever intimacy that comes from getting to know someone this way will be weird and always coloured by invasiveness.

So, accept your mindfuckness and revel in it!

And now, music!

Bad Romance

I fink u freeky

But also, explore it. What sides of the Brainer are strange, what sides are human? Is there sexuality, curiosity, fear, love, pride, shame, passion or coldness? You're playing the brainer, we are all curious about your character and we want to know! So be prepared to delve into your own mind as well.

And there is the power, of course. You don't even have to figure out how to make your character creepy, just set him up with a clear motivation, things he wants, and then have him use the tools available to him to pursue these goals. Since his tools are creepy, that will make him creepy. If your Brainer doesn't want to be creepy, that'll make it tragic, too!

Why the Brainer is the best playbook to play:
Ultimate power! You get to control peoples' minds! Either mind-control them for your own benefit, or charge others highly for your services. You also get to do weird crazy shit and revel in it, and you don't need any other excuse than ”I'm the Brainer!” So, knock yourself out! Or, if you're the introspective kind of player, you can play the tragic angle instead and really get to explore the tragedy of your characters existence! And finally, you get so much barter and so much hi-tech gear, it's awesome. And finally, as a high weird character, you get a big say in how the maelstrom works.

What it brings to the world of the apocalypse:
Creepiness. Innocence and loss of innocence. Powerful technology artifacts. Also, one great thing about Apocalypse World is the power assymetry. Like, the Gunlugger takes down anyone in a one-on-one fight, but the Hardholder has an entire hold to back him up, while the Hocus is everything for her followers, and the Skinner has social power. Adding a Brainer to the mix adds a whole nother dimension of power: Mind control.

Fundamental scarcities of the playbook:
The Brainer needs a purpose beyond just weird behaviour. Like, either there is a struggle for humanity and acceptance, or there is just insane weirdness to the core, which is fine too - then you can explore the method to the madness, how the psyche of your brainer works. Just madness for madness sake will become hollow and empty fast. There also needs to be a balance, the Brainer should be neither a popular cheerleader or completely alone. He needs a friend or two, or at least some subordinates or superiors. If he is a complete creep there is also the possibility that the other characters will get enough of his mindfucking and wipe him out. I'd love to see a completely balls to the wall Brainer though, who amasses puppets and meatshields out of NPCs, and push hard to establish himself as a local a warlord no matter what anyone else thinks of it.

Moves and crap analysis:
I think Vincent nailed mind control with this one. First up is Unnatural lust transfixion, which lets you seduce people with Weird instead of Hot, and Casual brain receptivity where you can  read a person with Weird instead of Sharp, and you just have to look at them. So, both of these are basically taking the architecture of the game that is already there and saying, ”You can do this really competently, and it's psychic”.

Then there is Deep brain scan which let's you find out other peoples secrets and weaknesses, if you have time and intimacy with them, setting you up to exploit this in your next moves.

Direct-brain whisper projection and In-brain puppet strings lets you command people through telepathy. They have a choice though, if they don't follow your command, they take harm for it. Now, I really like this, first because it avoids falling into complete mind control, which in my opinion is boring/bland/alienating to the other players. Secondly, because it jives with me as a psychologist to imagine brain control as a voice in your head saying ”You must go and fuck up Brace”, followed by a overwhelmning and acute feeling of anxiety and dread that some great but undefined and vague catastrophe or harm will come to you if you don't. That's pretty close to how severe anxiety can manifest, and since anxiety is a somatic experience, I feel this take on it touches on our human conditions in a way. I like it. Kind of OCD mind control, except the whole fuck people up-part.

The Brainer also start with 5-barter (a lot!) and some pretty sweet gear. Someone said on Barf forth apocalyptica that every time a Brainer has been in play, the player chose violation glove, because, hey... ”Violation glove”. It lets you bypass time and intimacy and just mindfuck people right there. 

Violation glove, by Sunamori, for Luxe eternal

Me, I'm in love with the pain-wave projector. Hits everyone around you except you for 1-harm armor piercing. Suffer, bitches! Implant syringe and receptivity drugs makes your moves more potent against the target. Brain relay lets you use your powers at a distance, opening up for some pretty creative mindfuckery. Deep ear plugs protects the wearer from all brainer moves and gear, so you can give them to a friend before you unleash the pain-wave projector around you. Except for that I'm not really sure what to make of them, unless there are NPC Brainers. Then they'd be hella sweet.

As for other playbook moves, you could take Merciless from the Battlebabe playbook. Suddenly, your psychic shit does 2-harm instead of 1-harm, meaning it'll straight up kill anyone who gets in your way! Opposing your whisper projected commands = Death. Botched in-brain puppet strings = Death. Pain-wave projector = Bloodbath. Or Impossible reflexes, also from the Battlebabe, and reskin it to weird-ass psychic bullet protection, Akira-style.
Lost from the Skinner playbook or Bonefeel from the Savvyhead are good moves to set up secluded brainfuckery, or you could get Frenzy from the Hocus playbook to propel your weirdness to truly epic proportions. Or maybe Infirmary from the Angel because oh god noooooo

Relationships and dynamics:
Tto start exploring mind, humanity and relationships in the Brainer, ask him things like ”Who is precious/scary/confusing to you?” ”Where did you come from?” ”What is your recurring dream?” ”What would you never do to anyone?” ”What is the kindest act anyone has done to you?”

The Angel is your opposite in a way – Unweird, grounded, somatic and probably a nice guy or girl. You could set up some real antagonism there or, may God have mercy on us all, team up in secret.

If you're in a group with a Hardholder, they can't live with you, and can't live without you. Have fun! The Operator is also a potential employer, or the Chopper, if your character is truly an outcast of the hold. Friendship with The Maestro D' or the Skinner, or dependance on their drugs/performance could both highlight your humanity and be a nice excuse to get out and meet people.

The first thing I would do when playing Brainer in a game with the Savvyhead in it would be to ask him to make me all the sweet gear I missed out on at character creation. The next thing would probably be building maelstrom-powered devices bordering between technology and psychology. The third thing would probably be the Savvyhead building anti-brainer protection and weapons. Lot's of fun to be had, in other words!

I have a hard time seeing a Brainer co-existing with a Hocus. They both claim to define weirdness, but in different ways. My guess is you'll have war over subjects (pawns) or a war of intrigue, maybe the Brainer infiltrates the cult?

And what about the Faceless? You'd have this:

The Driver, this:

The Hoarder, this:

The Sprawl / Re: The Sprawl: Beta version
« on: August 11, 2013, 07:14:57 AM »
Fuck yes!


Haha, yeah! Exactly the one I picked.

Any good ones portraying Angels? So far I'm thinking a scene with Doc Cochran from Deadwood.

Apocalypse World / Re: Playbook focus: The Battlebabe
« on: August 10, 2013, 01:16:06 PM »
Anyone have any good experiences with the Battlebabe?

We had a Battlebabe as a white hat sheriff working for the black hat (gas mask) Hardholder. Her motivation stemmed from here morality, I'd say. She spent a lot of time as a captive of the warlord raising an army to topple the Hardholder, and became more and more doubtful on her alliance. Eventually the Hardholder retired and she changed playbook to Angel.

Apocalypse World / Re: Playbook focus: The Battlebabe
« on: August 09, 2013, 07:13:32 AM »
The Battlebabe is the playbook I've had the most trouble with as an MC. My MC-style is throwing shit at the players till something sticks and nothing ever sticks to the Battlebabe and while this is totally in line with the playbook their players don't seem to have as good of a time as the rest. This is doubly troubling because it's such a popular playbook, especially with people who play the game for the first time. Anyone have any good experiences with the Battlebabe?

What is throwing? Presenting trouble? Presenting opportunities? Asking provocative questions? Moral dilemmas? All of the above?

What doesn't stick? Motivations? Relationships? Trouble? Ideals? All of the above?

Apocalypse World / Playbook focus: The Battlebabe
« on: August 08, 2013, 06:42:58 PM »

Even in a place as dangerous as Apocalypse World, battlebabes are, well.
They’re the ones you should walk away from, eyes down, but you can’t.
They’re the ones like the seductive blue crackling light, y’know? You
mistake looking at them for falling in love, and you get too close and it’s a
zillion volts and your wings burn off like paper.

Dangerous .

The Battlebabe is designed to be an interesting protagonist. Like a stranger in town, they have no inherent connections to the world in the form of facilities or people working for them. They have moves to survive danger and socially dominate situations. Their primary stat is Cool, which is used to keep their head cool, avoid trouble, stay in control.

My take on it:
Battlebabes can be a little tricky to pin down. Their name implies that they're the ”baddest ass” of the apocalypse, but that spot belongs to the Gunlugger. Other playbooks are very clear what your character does everyday, like, the Driver drives, the Hardholder rules, the Operator does jobs, the Skinner does art, and so on. But the Battlebabe playbook doesn't give you anything to start with, the Battlebabe has no given place in the post-apocalyptic society. She really is the stranger.

I think the key to understanding the Battlebabe is instead looking to her stats. She has a crap score for Hard, which means that straight-up confrontational violence will probably end in pain for her. She has a +1 Hot, which means there is a lot of possibilities for you to push your will through with people through manipulation or seduction. Foremost, she has a whopping +3 Cool, (every other playbook starts with +2 in their primary stat) which means she can deal with (through the basic move acting under fire) almost any danger or trouble you throw at her.

What emerges from all this is a cocky, independent motherfucker who does whatever she feels like, and never let's other get the drop on her. When you play a Battlebabe, take a strong stance for what you want, and don't let anyone stop you – Play your passion! Vincent writes ”when you want to play someone dangerous and provocative, play a Battlebabe”, and I think he's spot on. Above all, be brave! Be provocative!

(okay, one paragraph on the Zen of Apocalypse World again)
See, it's easy to consider Acting under fire a reactive move, seeing as you use it to deal with shit that comes up, but as I expanded on in the Hardholder focus, when you play Apocalypse World, you narrate your character however you want until resistance comes up, right? So, that's how you should play the Battlebabe. Do whatever you want. Be cocky. Be assertive. When things become difficult, the MC will have you roll acting under fire, and you'll most likely make the roll, because you're the goddamn battlebabe, you're cool as ice.

Use this to your advantage. You're great at acting under fire, so start a fire. Bring the heat. Escalate, and other people just won't be able to keep up like you do. Pick the really maverick arenas, like running on roofs, chicken-racing motorcycles or wrestling on a volcano, I don't know.

Vincent talks about Battlebabes having primarily Mindshare effectiveness rather than Fictional effectiveness or Mechanical effectiveness. That means they make good protagonists, and they should recieve the space in the story to match. Tying back to the fact that Battlebabes lack strong connections to the world at the start, they really start at square one and work themselves up. So, when you do fail that cool, hot or hard roll and end up broken, betrayed, broken or lost along the way it is just a part of the rising hero's arc. The first time I felt I really pushed the envelope as a new-fledged MC was when I made a hard move on the Battlebabe in our group, had her captured and a forced witness to the perverted dog-orgies of the hyena cult. This sexual/violative content was something new in our gaming group, but it worked, and the Battlebabe escaped with a sworn promise to bring these fucknuts down, or something to that extent.

Battlebabes can pretty much find any niche, I've seen the motorcycle helmet psychopathic killer, the hot but immature and impulsive woodsman with a sniper rifle, and the good-hearted white knight of the hardhold. I imagine they're all rootless wanderers at heart, though, who wasn't born to their place in the world, they found their way through chance or grim determination. If you where pressed me to tell what the Battlebabes ”job” in the post-apocalypse was, I would probably say adventurer and troublemaker. Which, of course, is easily recogniseable, movies and games are abound with Battlebabes. Maybe take a look at The Fifth Element for two hours of two Battlebabes, or maybe Hamlet – The most classic Battlebabe of them all?

Why the Battlebabe is the best playbook to play:
You get to be the hero, and you can be whatever you want! You got sweet moves and sweet gear, what the hell are you waiting for? The apocalypse world is your oyster, and you can take a little food poisoning.

What it brings to the world of the apocalypse:
If you really play on the Battlebabes potential for protagonism, it can bring a main character of sorts and character arc to your game. So what kind of Battlebabe you play also says something about the story as a whole, what your Battlebabe struggles with can inform what the world struggles with. Individualism versus Loyalty? Sanity versus Madness? Compassion versus Cruelty? Authority versus Revolution?

If you play your Battlebabe boldly, it'll be a force of flux in the world, bringing change, chaos and/or interesting events to it. Also, since the Battlebabe is connected to nothing and everything, you have a character that can be brought into almost any situation.

Fundamental scarcities of the playbook:
Of course, the lack of a clearly defined place in the world is a double-edged sword. You must find your drive for your Battlebabe, beyond mere boredom and troublemaking. You have to make bold decisions and then go for them, you have to trust that the MC and your +3cool will back you up. If you feel lost or intimidated at the start of your first game of Apocalypse World, the Battlebabe might not be able to carry you.

Moves and crap analysis:
Dangerous & sexy and Ice cold firmly establishes you as able to dominate or intimidate people by sheer presence. Rolling +cool to go aggro (threatening with violence) is so deliciously sweet, especially as your hard is to crap.

Perfect instincts and Impossible reflexes are really neat as they ensure that even if you're ambushed or attacked in your bed, you're still present and ready to deal with it. Visions of death is just awesome, I mean, you get to decide someone who lives or dies in an upcoming encounter. What other game does that? That's yours, Battlebabe. Enjoy it!

The Battlebabe also gets to customize her own weapons. making them quite deadly if wielded correctly. In sheer force, the Gunlugger wins, of course, but this gives an element of style to your fighting. In battle, you'll try to avoid head-on-collision as much as possible. Always try to manouever to a position where you can easily win the fight, or use the surroundings to your advantage, be creative. Roll +cool, not +hard.

Hell, even intimacy leaves the Battlebabe unfazed, as her special move cancels out any other character's special move (special moves are triggered by sex). This means others have nothing on you, sexually. If you sleep with someone it's because you want to, not because you need to. Battlebabes never get chosen, they're the ones choosing. An alternative way to interpret it to play up the world-weariness of your character could be that for your Battlebabe, sex is a dull affair. But that sounds a little boring. Related, Suna asked this on Barf forth apocalyptica:

It's an oddity, but I had 4 PCs made a four-way sex move. Thgere was a Battlebabe involved. How do you rule this case? Every sex moves is nullified? OR only the sex move of each PC with the BB, while we can consider valid the sex moves bteween the other PC?

And it's the best rules question EVER!

When it comes to taking moves from other playbooks, you can go anyway, really. Daredevil or A no shit driver from the Driver playbook helps you play even more agressively. Healing touch of the Angel or Bonefeel of the Savvyhead if you want to play up the weird, Moonlighting from the Operator is always a good choice,  A devil with a blade from the Maestro D' if you want to be a blade-wielding warrior, or maybe Prepared for the inevitable from the Gunlugger to take care of yourself?+

Dynamics and relationships
Good questions to ask the Battlebabe: ”What makes you angry?” ”Who do you hate? Who do you fear? Who do you love?” ”What is your most serious scarcity right now?” ”Where do you sleep? Where did you come from?” Good questions to find and rouse the Battlebabe to passion and action.

You can easily be a part of the Chopper's gang, the Hardholder's gang, the Operator's crew or the Hocus' cult, and that'll give you relationships and interesting things to do. Or even better, get your own gang as your first improvement and set out to crush the tyranny of the Hardholder or the Hocus, play the magnetic revolutionary striking out from ambushes and rousing the people with your hotness! The Battlebabe is a natural rebel.

The Driver makes a great ally, with the mobility and brute force to complement your presence. You are both free spirits, but your playbooks also need people around you to bounce off of, and if you're sleeping together it's never problematic like it usually is with the Driver. It's like a perfect match! The Angel is another playbook who needs a friend (or enemy) and if medical supplies is a scarcity, I bet the Battlebabe can hook him up, same with The Savvyhead. All these three playbooks really benefit from another character bringing trouble and/or passion to their lives, so form strong (positive, negative or ambivalent) relationships to them.

I have no idea what the relationship to the Brainer or Skinner would be like, but I imagine it would be explosive. And I can't imagine you having anything but passion for The Maestro D' and their establishment. Pure passion, or passion mixed with hate or contempt for the decadence, your pick.

The Battlebabe is the strong lone survivor type of character, which means you won't need a Touchstone, Gunlugger or Faceless to fill that slot. If you do have a group with both a Battlebabe and one of these, they might be the most interesting as rivals or enemies, or with a strong difference in status – Maybe the Gunlugger or Touchstone is your mentor? Maybe you are the brain and the face and the Faceless is the meat, which would make a truely frightening duo.

Apocalypse World / Re: Playbook focus: The Hardholder
« on: August 06, 2013, 07:55:53 AM »
Quote from: Svarte faraonen
Bra fokus! Jag har dock ett förslag på extraanalys: vilka är spelbokens naturliga allierade/konkurrenter?

Skitsmart! Det finns mycket att säga om det, men jag får försöka klämma in det i mina fokus.

Relations and dynamics
As a Hardholder, you're the highest status. To add more dynamics to the status relationships, try and find someone who has higher status than you in your particular relationship, maybe you're in love with the Skinner or Gunlugger, maybe you worship the Hocus, maybe the Touchstone or Brainer gives you nightmares and unnerves you. "Who has power over you?" is a good question for an MC to ask the Hardholder.

Other good questions are "Who in your gang do you trust the most? Who do you trust the least?", "What was it like before you became Hardholder?" "Who in your hold gives you the most trouble?" "Who in your hold do you really care about?" All these serve to bring your hold and your relationships alive.

The Chopper and Hocus are your natural rivals, as they have manpower and loyalty rivalling yours. If they're your allies, the MC would have to formulate insanely powerful fronts for you to fight, or find other threats than outer physical, such as superstition, disloyalty, disease, food scarcity and so on.

The Driver, Savvyhead and Angel are great allies as they have specialized and valuable skills, but not clear intrinsic motivation. The Faceless can also really thrive with a boss telling him what to do. A Hardholder telling these characters what to do gives them both something to do and something to rebel against. Invite the rebellion! In a world of scarcity, there's often not room for compromise, and someone has to yield which can lead to great drama and betrayal. Great stuff to play off.

The Brainer and Hoarder can be great resources, but can never be truly trusted because of their Weirdness. Same with the Maestro D' who can hook you up, but also bring chaos to your hold with drugs and revelry.

And never forget, the Gunlugger can kill you if they really want to, and if anyone is going to topple your rule, it's probably the Battlebabe or Touchstone. Go see Book of Eli!

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