Show Posts

This section allows you to view all posts made by this member. Note that you can only see posts made in areas you currently have access to.

Messages - John B.

Pages: 1 [2] 3
Dungeon World / Re: Number Appearing playtest and suggestions
« on: June 23, 2012, 11:45:45 PM »
What's an alternative to Ratman that would work? Ratling does but might hit copyright with GW. Ratperson sounds lame. Maybe Mousling as a homage to Mouse Guard. Any other options?

Is Ratkin copyrighted? A quick Google search shows the term has been used by White Wolf, Pathfinder, and Wizardry 8, plus I remember it was used in Shadow of Yesterday, so it's probably okay, right?

-John B.

Dungeon World / Re: Number Appearing playtest and suggestions
« on: June 23, 2012, 10:35:25 PM »
I'm really enjoying the playtest doc so far. One small thing I've noticed is that throughout the text when you refer to adding a stat modifier, you don't capitalize the three-letter abbreviation (e.g., you write "roll+Cha" instead of "roll+CHA"). I'm not sure if that's technically a typo, but it's not consistent with the main DW text, so I thought I'd mention it.

I'm sure I'll have more thoughts later after I finish reading it and hopefully playtest it. (To my surprise, my 9-year-old daughter is thrilled by the idea of playing a ratman, er, excuse me, ratwoman ranger with a swarm of rats as her animal companion(s).)

-John B.

Dungeon World / Re: So, The Druid
« on: June 16, 2012, 09:12:03 PM »
It seems the answer is: no, but if the fiction is cool, then yes.

Thanks, I had missed that thread. That makes sense and I wouldn't give both Moves in my regular game with my friends, but with my 9-year-old daughter I think I'll give her both.

-John B.

Dungeon World / Re: So, The Druid
« on: June 16, 2012, 08:49:38 PM »
Quick question: If a Druid takes the Hunter's Brother advancement and wants an animal companion, do they get both Animal Companion and Command from the Ranger moves, the way that you get Commune and Cast a Spell if you use a multi-class move to take cleric spells? Command and Animal Companion seem to require each other.

I've been playing DW with my kids (11, 9, and 7). My 9-year-old daughter is currently playing a Ranger and really wants to switch her character to a Druid but she wants to keep her animal companion (a tiger named "Orange").

-John B.

brainstorming & development / Unknown Armies hack: Second try
« on: April 14, 2012, 02:45:52 AM »
I was working on an Unknown Armies hack a few months ago (previous threads are here: General notes, magick, & GM principles). Then I started my UA campaign before I'd gotten far enough along to use UA hack, so we're currently just playing UA straight (with some of the AW principles applied as GM techniques). It's a fun campaign, but it's also reminded me of why I wanted to do a hack in the first place: Basically, while the UA games I've played or run have been fun, they've been very different than the UA fiction. What I mean is that when read through the fiction in the UA core book and supplements, it just oozes with awesome flavor, then when I play UA, that flavor is mostly missing. Part of that, I'm sure, is how I'm GMing, but I think a lot of it is that while the system allows the kind of play that the fiction implies, it doesn't always support it well. Does that make sense? I'm not criticizing the system--like I said, it's been fun, but it hasn't been the UA game I wanted to play that first time I was reading through the UA core book and thinking how awesome it all sounded.

Okay, long rambling intro over... The reason I'm starting this up again is that I'm started over on a UA hack for AW.

What is the game about

I don't have more actual *W play under my belt then I did before (I've still only run single short Dungeon World Basic campaign and haven't played), but I've read a lot more. I've been following the DW Beta versions closely and I pre-ordered Monster of the Week and have devoured the beta versions. I've also been following Monsterhearts with interest and plan on buying it as soon as I can convince the wife (I've overspent my RPG budget considerably lately--damn Kickstarter...). Looking at those four games, as well as some of the hacks on this forum, like Saga of the Icelanders, I've gotten a lot better idea of how *W core system can be changed and hacked and distorted to get different effects.

So when I sat down again to try another UA hack, my first question was to ask what I wanted the game to be about. There are a lot of different games you can play within UA. So I went back and reread the fiction in UA 2nd ed. and the source books.

I think that I've settled on the idea that a character's obsession is what defines them. It's the foundation of their moves and of the advancements and of their choices.

In tandem with that, mystery and consequences define the stories that get told around those obsessions.


"You need to know more. The world you know isn't enough for you... Anything would be preferable to the ignorance of daily life."

You'll notice that "powers" wasn't one of of my core focuses. That's because at its best and most interesting, magick in UA is inextricably drawn from and tied to obsession. Obsession is the heart of power, and consequences come from power.

Two things have jumped out at me as I've started working on this again. The first is that Playbooks (and therefore character archetypes as well as moves) will be based on how they approach their obsession, how they're trying to get it. The second is that the "arc" of a character is about the nearly impossible search and struggle for their obsession.


Playbooks will be based on an approach to hunting their obsession. That they have an obsession, that it drives them into the Occult Underground, that it screws up their life, is all assumed (the same way that it is in UA). If you weren't obsessed, you wouldn't be a UA character.

Playbooks aren't based on powers or types (adept schools, avatars, etc.). Yeah, there will be a certain amount of overlap (I mean, someone who finds power and truth at the bottom of a bottle is approaching their obsession in a fundamentally different way than a True King).

Building on that, magick isn't based on schools or archetypes, per se. A character's magick (and they all have at least some magick, even if hardly any and tied to a -1 stat) comes out of their obsession. That said, playbooks moves that veer into the magickal will likely be heavily inspired by the coolest stuff from the UA adept schools and avatar paths.

I'll talk more about magick and other moves in later posts.


"Something big is going down. You don't know what. But you can feel it all around you. It's in the air, in the headlines of the newspapers, in the blurry images on television. It is a secret you have yet to grasp, although the first syllable has been spoken in a dream you cannot quite recall."

When I read the fiction in UA, the sense of mystery and and looking at the world through distorted, madness-tinted glasses is huge. Then the character types are laid out clearly. Like I said above, I know that UA can run games with that sense of mystery and unraveling, but it doesn't necessarily support it. Maybe it's just me or my GMing style, but I'm ultimately making this for myself anyway. I want the system to drive and support that feeling. I want it to be an emergent property of the moves and mechanics.

I'm tempted to say that game will be at the "street level" to use the UA term, but I don't know that it necessarily is. What I do know is that the world will always be weird and unknown. To some extent, the cosmology and "metaphysics" will be a lot less set -- like Monster of the Week, the cosmology is built up during play for that campaign by asking questions, by moves, by creating fronts, etc. The "canon" of UA will be stripped down to Principles, Moves, Threat Types, "rumors", etc. It will be a lot less defined.

And further, the moves (character and GM), plus the Principles, Fronts, etc., will have a lot of tie-ins to cosmology and mystery creation.

One of the specific things I'm thinking is that the game will be about mysteries. They'll be how the game is structured (in the way that AW has Fronts and Home, DW has dungeons/adventures, and MotW has Monsters/Mysteries). I'm not exactly sure what that looks like yet, though I have a number of half-formed ideas that I'll post as they become more worked out.

Basically, I'm picturing that mysteries can take various forms (depending on the Threat Types, campaign, and player characters). Whatever you're doing (looking for something or someone, trying to figure out who's screwing with you and why, trying to ascend or keep someone else from ascending, etc.) and whatever the reason you're doing it (you're in debt to TNI, it holds the key to your obsessions, you need something for you collection, you're a dead man or woman if you don't, etc.) -- it's structured as a mystery to be unraveled (and survived).


"People vanish, die horribly, become madmen, for the sake of whatever the secret is that lies at the heart of the unseen world."

It wouldn't be UA if it wasn't full of tough choices and consequences with bite. One thing that always does seem to work well when I play UA is that my players go further and cross lines they wouldn't in other games. I love that.

Part of it is hard-baked into the moves and already handled well by AW. Hard choices and consequences are included in the results of many player moves as well as GM moves. That's part of what I love about AW for a UA hack.

I'm also planning on keeping the spirit of the adept charging and avatar taboos (though not their details, in general) in the sense that magick ain't ever free. Hell, nothing's free, especially if it relates to your obsession.

Advancement and Harm

Drawing different pieces from various *W games that I've mentioned above, I'm planning on having basically long-term and short-term harm and advancement. There are the basic advances and the "uncertain future" advances after the first five advances (with the advanced advances having more character arc-related options). Then there is harm and madness (like failed notches in UA) for short-term harm, and Hardened notches (and psychoses and physical impairments) for lasting harm.


Advances will work similar to AW (though I haven't really thought much yet about how xp is earned). And like AW, there will be advances that you can take once you've taken a certain number of other advances. These "uncertain future" advances will have options for wrapping up the obsession and/or character arc (though, like AW, those aren't the only choices). I'm still playing with ideas, but I like the way that the "Wronged" playbook in MotW can spend an advance after their first five to make the next mystery be about the type of creature that killed their loved ones and that it will tie directly to their own personal tragic back-story. Using these advanced advances is a way to reach your obsession (or at least get a shot at it). This is how you have a shot at Ascending, etc.

Madness: Hardened

I love the UA madness meters, but I'm not going to try to port them directly. Instead, I'm going to separate out Hardened and Failed notches into separate systems. Failed notches (Madness--see below) are basically psychological Harm. Hardened notches, on the other hand (becoming increasingly hardened and inhuman until you're a sociopath) is a longer-term system. Basically I'm planning on porting the "Luck" mechanics from MotW, but changing the flavor a bit. For those of you who aren't familiar with MotW luck, basically you have a set number of points you can spend to change a roll to a 10+ or lower any Harm taken to 0. But once you use them, they're gone--meaning you have a set number (7 in MotW and I'll probably keep the same) for the entire campaign. There are a couple very limited ways to get a point or two back for some characters, but that's it. And when you run out, bad things happen. In MotW, the GM can make hard moves against you anytime--it's always a golden opportunity because you're out of luck--I don't know exactly what I'll do, but I'm leaning towards it marking the end of your character arc, meaning you have a session or two to wrap things up in a tragic way or perhaps you can change your playbook to "Broken" and start over or something. Also, like MotW Luck, many (but not all) playbooks have things that are tied to or triggered by Hardened getting spent and/or running out. I'm still working out details.

Basically, it will work mechanically like Luck, but in the fiction it's your character becoming hardened and inhuman and damaged -- it's the slow, character arc-level psychological damage.

Madness: Failed

In contrast, you can take psychological Harm as Madness. There are two Harm clocks or tracks: physical and madness.

I'm thinking that when madness builds (to 9:00 perhaps?) you have to take a Madness move (there are several to choose from). The madness move will have rules for when it's triggered, just like all moves. Part of the trigger will be "when your Harm is 6:00 or later (or some other level). If you clear your madness below that, the Madness move doesn't go away, but it's dormant (except under certain circumstances).

I'm not planning on having the 5 different meters an I'll have a single madness clock instead (though I'll use all five meters to draw examples of sources of Madness harm and amounts). I might conceivably use tags for the types, but only if I could think of some interesting thing to do with it that would make it more fun without increasing complication too much.


I'm uncertain how I want to handle harm. I want combat to be scary, like UA, though I don't necessarily need it to be deadly. I also want it to feel like wounds instead of numbers. I don't know that I want to just say that the GM keeps track of Harm (and perhaps Madness, too?) just because UA does. I'm thinking of doing something like wounds in the earlier beta versions of MotW, where each wound is a separate thing and the ratings correspond to the consequences, but there isn't a clock or track (i.e. 6 points of harm doesn't mean dead, necessarily). I also like some of the stuff Saga of the Icelanders does with harm and wounds and may combine it with the earlier MotW wounds system.


That's all I have time for tonight. This is already a very rambling post. Watch for more to come (though it will probably be erratic for the next while).

-John B.

brainstorming & development / Re: Unknown Armies: Adept Magick
« on: January 09, 2012, 07:02:18 PM »
If you're not doing something different, why not just play UA? It's a really good game.

Excellent question, John. I've asked myself several times since starting this. I agree that Unknown Armies is a great game as it is and you're right that it isn't worth the work to simply convert it over to the Apocalypse World dice mechanics.

There are several reasons I could give for why I want to hack Unknown Armies into Apocalypse World instead of just playing Unknown Armies with some Apocalypse World techniques--the two biggest being: a) some of my players really hate percentile systems (enough that they've been resistant to playing UA in the past) and b) working on this hack has been fun.

...but neither of those reasons is enough to justify the amount of work (especially since I could get those players to try it anyway if I pushed and pleaded).

To your point, my goal is to not just convert UA straight over. I do want to do something different, even though that hasn't come across in my threads so far.

Part of it is that I've been intentionally taking the approach of thinking about how I would convert it straight over first to give myself a starting point so that I can see more clearly what the core parts are that I want to rip out and then re-envision. I have a tendency to get stuck at the abstract level and never get the details done. Starting with basically a straight-over conversion has been a technique to try and force some discipline on myself. And it's been useful both in refreshing my familiarity with the UA material and improving how well I actually understand how the AW mechanics work under the hood.

But your question brought home that--in spite of my intentions--I have been falling into the rut of simply converting instead of making an AW game that plays like I've always wanted UA to play (and that does things that UA doesn't do or at least doesn't do as well).

Since reading your post, I started almost fresh to create something different than UA with AW dice mechanics. I'm working on the rough draft of my new take on it and I'll link to it in a new thread as soon as its far enough along to be useful. I think that it will be more clear at that point what I'm trying to do. I'm pretty excited about how it's coming along. While a lot of what I'm doing builds on some ideas I've thrown out here, it's pretty different now.

Once I get that up, it will be a lot easier for people to see what I'm doing and make specific comments without wading through my overly-wordy posts... :-P

And I really hope I'll get more comments like this when I'm being unecessarily derivitive of UA instead of doing something different. Your post has pushed me to make a lot better stuff than I would have if I had just continued along as I was going.


brainstorming & development / Re: Unknown Armies: Adept Magick
« on: January 06, 2012, 12:53:26 AM »
This last week or so I've been focusing on adept magick. I don't want to just straight across convert UA (if I was going to do that, I'd just play UA with AW techniques--something I've thought about doing more than once). What I want is to make an AW hack that plays like how I've always wanted to run a UA campaign. Accordingly, I'm perfectly willing to take liberties and make changes if I think they get me closer to the essence of what I love about UA.

Formula Spells

Some Thoughts on Spells

  • Formula spells aren't separate rolls--there are separate casting moves (see above) that you roll and if you're successful then you can spend charges for the formula's effect--it's not unlike spending jingle to get the results of having rolled 10+ on a manipulate or seduce move in AW
  • I don't want as many charges as UA has--I want closer to 3 or less minor charges and 3 or less significant charges at a time, and correlated to that, all spells cost a single charge
  • For most spells, you cast the spell instead of making another move (or in some cases to alter a move you just made)--with the casting roll and the charging roll, magick certainly isn't free, but in that moment, it's sort of like cheating, which is the point
  • A minor charge is roughly on par to a automatic weak hit while a significant charge is roughly on par with a strong hit (usually meaning more targets, longer duration, more profound effects, etc.)

Common Patterns Emerging

As a first step, I'm going through and converting each formula spells one-be-one to AW. Next I'll go through it again and clean it up and streamline it. Then I'll go through it again and streamline it again. There's a fair amount of redundancy (especially as I'm converting things to AW mechanics), so I expect there to be less than the roughly 13 formula spells on average per school.

As I'm going through the list, some common types of effects are starting to emerge:

A very common effect is basically doing the effects of a basic move without doing the basic move but ignoring a requirement (like leverage to manipulate) or allowing an effect broader or deeper than normally allowed (like asking questions about the future or seeing things far away through the eyes of a rat)
  • Let Me Check My Books lets a bookworm instantly know a fact in one of their books--they may ask 1 question about a topic in their library (for a significant charge, a blank book is filled up with a cross-referenced dissertation of all the knowledge on the topic in their library)
  • Familiar Face makes anyone who meets the cobweb farmer feel like they know them and be generally inclined to trust and help them--this counts as manipulate or seduce at the weak hit level (they have to give some proof now), but they don't require any leverage (i.e. they can walk up to a total stranger and just ask, but have it count as leverage) or for a significant charge it's as if they rolled 10+ (i.e. they just have to promise)
  • Vermin's Eyes lets the city rat control a rat's movements and see through it's eyes (though switching back to her own senses breaks the connection)--she gets to see things far away and get a question from the read a sitch list

Another common effect is either (very similar to the above, really) is to declare that a move is a success without rolling (a weak hit with a minor charge or a strong hit with a significant charge) or else to retroactively turn a miss into a hit (this one is mostly limited to entropomancers).
  • Hold My Liquor lets the boozehound perform a task without impairment (getting a weak hit for a minor charge or a strong hit for a significant charge), despite being drunkenly impaired otherwise
  • Fortune's Fool lets a bodybag turn a miss into a weak hit after the fact (I win is the significant charge version that turns a miss into a total success, i.e. a strong hit)
  • Common Knowledge lets the cobweb farmer perform a task with fair competence (a weak hit) after looking at someone skilled at that task

Other spells take away a target's action(s).
  • Taste of Chaos by a bodybag makes the target extraordinarily unlucky for an action; they "lose" their next action since they stumble and fail (other consequences depend on the narrative and the GM)
  • Dazzle lets a pornomancer force a target to stand there for an action doing nothing (not really even thinking); Paralysis is the significant charge version and keeps them frozen for up to several hours (both versions allow a PC to try to act anyway, but they are acting under fire
  • The mirror crack'd is an odd and powerful spell by a thespian that cause the target to completely forget themselves (complete amnesia), causes every living thing around her to ignore her, and keeps her from interact with animate or even inanimate objects if the results would be observed (this effect can not be overcome by the target, like some others, but there are still other actions or choices they can make)

Defensive spells are modeled either by giving armor or reducing damage to 0.
  • Drunken Stagger gives the boozehound +1armor for a fight for a minor charge (this stacks with other armor)
  • Luck of the Damned is the significant charge defensive spell of bodybags and reduces a single attack to 0-harm after the fact (as long as there's any possible way to explain the lack of harm as a coincidence(
  • Body Like a Still Pond reduces damage to a fleshworker to 1-harm (combined) for either the three hits or all attacks in the next minute (whichever happens first)--this is also a significant charge spell)

Yet another common type of spell imposes behavior or restricts types of behaviors--these are usually modeled on go aggro (in terms of what the target's choices are and the sense that the caster is forcing behaviors by force)
  • Just a Harmless Drunk keeps others from paying attention to or attacking the boozehound (PCs can still act against them, but they're acting under fire)
  • Aphasia lets a bookworm strip the ability to read, talk, or understand language from a target for a period of time
  • Family Drama lets a vidiot impose the "rules" of a family drama on a situation--the target becomes intensely emotionally interested in the focus (usually the caster); everything focus says is interpreted in the most emotionally-laden way possible (something like "please pass me a drink" gets a response like "it's always about you, isn't it? maybe the rest of us work hard all day, too!")

Sometimes those impositions affect everyone around the target.
  • Gnostic Gossip lets the cobweb farmer implant a rumor that everyone "remembers hearing" about the target (whether they believe it or not is a spearate question)
  • Alone in a Crowd lets the city rat cause the target to be treated as an outsider by everyone they meet except their closest family and friends

Sometimes those impositions affect reality itself.
  • Laff Riot lets a vidiot twist reality for awhile so that serious harm and danger are unlikely (but that embarrassing gaffes and comic falls are much more common)
  • Napoleon of Notting Hill lets the city rat pick a target (they can pick themselves) and that target will rise to a position of authority and respect in their community in the next few months (though the rat can't control or pick what the position will be)

Next, another big category are spells that cause something to happen; it's less about mechanics than it is about being a way to make that thing happen, if that makes sense. You do a thing...
  • Long-distance Call lets a bodybag randomly dial 10 numbers on a phone and the nearest phone to the desired target will start ringing.
  • Face Shift lets the bodybag change several of their features permanently (significant charge versions allow either more dramatic changes or else allow you to mimic specific people temporarily, etc.)
  • Narrowcast and Spraypaint let the vidiot or city rat (respectively) send a message just to their intended recipients.

Then, of course, there are blasts, which do a certain amount of damage, possibly with certain tags attached.

Finally, there's the unique stuff, like changing history, healing, astral projection, soul-sipping, demon summoning, etc., that will probably all be handled as one-offs[/li][/list]

One thing I'm still undecided on is permanent bonuses or changes (especially common for epediromancers and narco-alchemists, though others have them, too). I'm currently leaning towards either just cutting them completely and replaceing them with temporary equivalents (note that effects like changing your appearance can be permanent, no problem) or else making them part of advancement (e.g. the epideromancer has advancement choices that others simply don't, possibly costing charges and advances, but perhaps having less spells). My concern with permanent bonuses from spells is that it seems to mess with the advancement system and changes in AW aren't fine enough to allow lots of small bonuses like UA (where adding a couple percent to a stat or skill is nice, but not huge).

Note that the above list isn't comprehensive by any means. Like I said, I am working on a document, but it's still a total mess and very incomplete.

Anyway, I'm out of time but I wanted to get something down to prove I'm still hacking away :-)

brainstorming & development / Re: dedicated hack forums
« on: December 30, 2011, 09:41:02 AM »
Hey Vincent,

Would you please set up an "Occult Underground" subforum for the Unknown Armies hack I'm working on? There's three threads now and they'll be some more soon and it would be helpful to have them all together.

Here are the threads I need moved over:

My full name is John Bogart.


Shouldn't you add a principle: "Someone is responsible for everything magical"

Oh, good point, Mike! I'll definitely add that. I agree that everything supernatural being caused by humans is core to UA.

The list I've thrown up so far is only a starting point. I created it by going through the corresponding sections in AW and starting to convert them to UA. I definitely need to go through UA next and look for things that need to be principles, GM moves, etc.

My group is pretty lukewarm to the idea of running a wraith campaign, so this wraith hack has moved to the back-burner. I still love Wraith: The Oblivion and I still think it would really well as an AW hack. I expect I'll come back to this at some point, but it's pretty much dead for now. If/when I pick it up again, I'll share what I'm doing.

Sorry... :-(

brainstorming & development / Re: Some specific issues I am dealing with
« on: December 30, 2011, 01:22:23 AM »
Right now, the move is: if you meet the following conditions, you regain all your lost Fight!
> sufficient food and water
> medical attention, if you need it
> a relatively safe and comfortable place to rest
> about six to eight hours sleep
The complicated part is, for each condition not met, the amount you would regain is halved.  This is a bit of unwelcome math and is a bit clunky, I guess.

Don't know if this is helpful, but it seems like it wouldn't take a lot of room to just do the math for them right in the move write-up. Maybe something like this:

"If you meet all 4, regain all your lost Fight!. If you meet 3, regain half . If you meet 2, regain a quarter. If you meet 1, regain an eigth."

It would probably only be an extra line or two.

Unless you're also concerned about the math of figuring out what is an eight of your lost Fight!, etc.?

brainstorming & development / Re: Unknown Armies: Adept Magick
« on: December 30, 2011, 01:15:42 AM »
As I mentioned in the main UA hack thread (HERE), I've been reading Postmodern Magick for the first time tonight and it's gotten my brain looking at adept moves from a different angle.

Charging Moves (revised thinking)

Here's an excerpt from the "Daily Grind" section in Postmodern Magick:

Quote from: Postmodern Magick, "The Daily Grind" (pg. 14)
The first order of daily business for the competent adept is to build up a charge. When he gets up in the morning, the adept has to assess how much power he has on hand and what sort of threats the day may bring his way[...] Depending on your mystic predilections, the early part of the day is spent on historical tours of the city, a few well-placed sales on the stock market, a quick shag or two, hitting the bottle early, jaywalking through rush hour traffic, or slamming your fingers in the car door a few times[...] The exact method of charge harvesting is going to vary according to the adept’s personal tastes and habits. In its own little way, though, regardless of who the mage is, the process of picking up a mystic charge takes on a sort of work-a-day ritual, though without all of the formalized trappings of the classic, hermetic methods.

I love that vibe of gathering charges being a ritual of sorts that's part of their daily life.

In the post above about charging moves, I talk about some rough ideas for charging moves for the Control schools (dipsomancers, entropomancers, and epideromancers). I like a lot of the stuff in there, but I'm mulling over the idea of moving away from "charge counting" and going to a more streamlined system. I keep thinking that surplus/want and profit/catastrophe are the best model here (maybe combined with some charge counting as an expendable resource like barter?).

Some cautions to myself is that charges need to feel like a limited resource and also the combination of charging rituals and taboos needs to be part of what separates adepts from the rest of the (sane) population. No magickal effects for free, you know? It's one of the 3 core principles of adept magick in UA.

Like I said, I'm still mulling it over.

brainstorming & development / Re: Unknown Armies hack
« on: December 30, 2011, 01:13:49 AM »
Daily Grind: Using moves to make adepts feel like adepts...

I've been buying up PDFs of some of the UA supplements I haven't read and I'm reading Postmodern Magick tonight for the first time. The section on the "daily grind" of adepts (pg. 14-15 if you have it) has gotten me thinking. One thing that's always left me a little disappointed with games like UA is that they set up this awesome setting and vibe, but actual game play usually winds up feeling like something different (often really cool, but not like the vibe in the books).

One of my favorite things about AW moves is how much of the story and feel is packed into the moves. That's a big part of what drew me to a AW hack for UA. I want a player who's never read any of the UA books and knows little about the setting to be able to juat play their character based on their playbook and have the result feel like UA. In fact, it's reasonable to say that's my single biggest goal.

Reading Postmodern Magick has given me a bunch of half-formed ideas about how to make adept moves and avatar moves to try and make them feel and play like the parts that make them cool rather than just their lists of powers (e.g. adepts don't just have kewl powerz, they're all obsessive, half-crazed nut-jobs pushed to the edges of society by their inability--and unwillingness--to function in regular life; if you want to play a character with some powers who isn't crazy, look at an avatar or a thaumaturgist--they have their own taboos and quirks, but it's a role you're acting out instead of basically being crazy).

The Occult Underground (jockeying for position)

Here's an excerpt from PM:

Quote from: Postmodern Magick, "The Daily Grind" (pg. 15)
(After gathering charges) the next order of business for any self-respecting adept is to jockey for position with the other hard fellows in the occult underground. You have to understand that the occult underground, by simple virtue of its hidden, secretive nature, breeds an intense competition and paranoia. When an adept gets wind of someone—or something—sniffing around his neighborhood or staging some kind of mystical operation, he has to assume the worst(...) Basically, a long-lived adept keeps a mental checklist of potential threats at the forefront of his mind:
• Is it after me?
• Is it unnatural?
• Is it another adept?
• Is it someone working for another adept?
• Is it someone who has it in for magick and those who work it?

For the cautious and conscientious adept, any answer in the positive is enough to warrant a defensive response.

Man, I want to capture this in the playbook moves, too! You know, I'm really starting to like the idea of building adepts almost like operators (or hardholders or hocuses or choppers, depending on their type) and having them pick gigs (profits/catastrophes) and/or set up their resources (surplus/wants) that they roll at the start of every session as they work their corner of the Underground. Give enough choices of "gigs" that they can be reclusive or precarious kings-of-the-hill or anywhere in-between or slantwise from there.

Also, that list of questions might provide some fodder for both their gigs or surplus/want types of moves, as well as fodder for Fronts and Threats (so it relates to THIS TOPIC).

And of course, Avatars have their own thing going on (with its own set of obligations, threats, and competitions). Mundanes do, too, to a point, but they have a different relationship to the underground, which is a big part of both their edge and their liability...


Obviously this is all still mushy and half-defined at this point. I know these posts tend to be really long and are in large part thinking out loud rather than nailing things down. I'm going to start a Google doc soon where I'll start compiling an actual draft of the hack. Thanks for bearing with me and (as always) any and all comments are appreciated!

brainstorming & development / Re: Unknown Armies hack
« on: December 29, 2011, 04:20:37 PM »
Thanks, wightbread.

I'm pretty set on using seize by force now. I also have the goal of simplifying as much as possible. In some areas (like adept magick in this thread), I'm often starting more complicated so I can get it down, then I'll go back through and look for how I can do it simpler and better, but KISS is definitely my goal.

brainstorming & development / Re: Unknown Armies: Adept Magick
« on: December 29, 2011, 01:53:58 PM »
Charging Moves

I've taken a first stab at charging moves. I started with Control schools (Dipsomancy, Entropomancy, and Epideromancy), because they seem the most complicated in many ways (the others I think will all be variants of gigs and/or the other surplus/want moves).

All schools have a charging move and each charging move has two parts ("on-screen" and "downtime", basically). Control schools emphasize the on-screen stuff (you make a move in a scene and get charges), while the downtime stuff is really only for when there's a week or more of downtime. Also, "downtime" charging isn't cumulative (i.e. entropomancers don't roll for each week of downtime, they can roll once if it's been a week or more--whether that's a week or ten years).

Control School Charging Moves

One of the reasons that I did the Control schools first, is that each of the three is pretty different, even though the underlying concept is the same.

Note: To start, I'm basically using the same charge structure as UA (the number of charges they can get and the costs of spells), meaning that a Dipsomancer can get 20 or more charges in a day. I may simplify that by shrinking the pools (everyone gets fewer charges, but spells are cheaper). Honestly, I want to get things worked out first by translating UA, then I'll have a better idea of all the moving pieces so I can make it fit AW better.

Dipsomancy Charging

Get drunk. Every drink (as long as it impacts you, basically meaning ignoring the first drink) gives a minor charge. This is a really simple move:

When you take a drink that increases your impairment, gain a charge. This is a minor charge unless you are drinking out of a historically significant or potent vessel*, in which case it's a significant charge, or if you're drinking a unique liquor*, in which case it's a major charge. Dipsomancers have no "downtime" charging because every time the sober up they lose all charges so they aren't able build up charges over extended periods.

* using the same criteria as UA

Taboo: If you ever sober up, you immediately lose all charges.

Simple enough, except that it means I had to come up with a system for how being drunk impairs you. Here's my first stab (I'm fairly happy with it, but I think there's room for improvement).

Getting Drunk

Alright, so there's a "drunk clock". In theory anyone can use this, but it's really meant for dipsomancers, who are always walking this tightrope between getting more charges without impairing themselves to the point of uselessness or passing out and waking up sober (and stripped of all charges). (For other characters, this level of detail usually isn't necessary--just slap a penalty on them or assign them a rating on the drunk clock without counting individual drinks.)

  • 3:00: (2 drinks) buzzed; -1sharp & -1cool
  • 6:00: (6 drinks) drunk; -2sharp & -2cool, -1 every other stat
  • 9:00: (10 drinks) smashed; -2 all stats
  • 10:00: (13 drinks) plastered; must act under fire every hour or so not to pass out (consequences from weak hits should play on being plastered: terrible judgment, lack of coordination, social blunders, etc., or they can cause 1-harm, bump you up +1-drunk, etc.)--if you pass out, you wake up sober (losing all charges if you're a dipsomancer)
  • 11:00: (16 drinks) bombed; -3 all stats; black-out (you don't remember anything that happens until you sober up)
  • 12:00:(18 drinks) alcohol poisoning; you automatically pass out, take 2-harm  (plus another 1-harm if not treated within an hour)--if this puts you to 9:00 harm or beyond, you are unstable as normal and likely to die if you don't get treatment

Number of drinks

One of the key concepts in the above chart is the "number of drinks". This is included because dipsomancers get a charge for each drink. Basically the first drink is "free", the second drink bumps you up to 3:00, around the 6th drink you move to 6:00, and so on.

It isn't quite as simple as that, though, because you sober up slowly if you aren't drinking. Every hour that you drink nothing, your "number of drinks" drops by one. Note that you only drop if you have no drinks. You can't drink one drink an hour and simply maintain your current level; you're either going up (if you have any drinks) or down (if you have no drinks at all for an hour).

(Note that the number of drinks is based on UA's alcohol impairment chart so that it will balance roughly the number of charges gained--I make no claims that it's medically accurate. Also note that it reflects how much a dipsomancer--obviously a hard drinker--can consume and makes no attempts to incorporate things like body mass or other factors that affect how much you can drink. For anyone but a dipsomancer, ignore the number of drinks and just use the clock, moving them as feels right.)

(It would be simpler to do something like say "every time you move up a drunk clock segment you gain a charge", rather than using number of drinks, but then the number of charges dipsomancers get would drop dramatically. I may decide to make spells cheaper and go that way, but as I mentioned above, right now I'm try to keep charges on the same scale as they are in UA until I have a better idea what the whole magick system will look like.)


I haven't really thought about this in detail, so this is just quick thoughts. I'd lean towards saying that if you reach 6:00 or later on the drunk clock, you wake up with a -1ongoing that clears as soon as the hangover clears (GM discretion).

Entropomancer Charging

Entropomancers are about taking pointless risks (that aren't for any reason except getting charges); stuff like playing catch with a knife, driving blind, playing Russian roulette, doing nothing when someone shoots at you, etc. There's also a trade-off between the size of the stakes and the odds. A 10% chance of something really bad can get you a charge similar to a high chance of something minor happening.

Here's the move:

When you take a pointless risk, gain 1 charge of the type indicated by the stakes and roll+stakes. On a 10+, both. On a 7-9, choose 1:
  • you don't lose the stakes
  • you are invigorated, take +1forward
On a miss, you lose the stakes.

When you have a week or more of downtime in the fiction, pick a minor stakes and roll+stakes. On a 10+, take 3 minor charges or 1 significant charge (you choose). On a 7-9, choose 1:
  • take 3 minor charges and lose the stakes
  • get no charges and don't lose the stakes
On a miss, you get no charges and you lose the stakes.

Taboo: If you ever let another take a risk you aren't willing to take, you immediately lose all charges.

Minor Stakes:
  • -1: pain or minor embarrasment (-1forward)
  • =0: 1-cash, 1-harm
  • +1: 2-cash, painful injury (-1ongoing for several days), humiliation
  • +2: 3-cash, 2-harm, a piece of gear you care about, very public humiliation, etc.
  • add +1 to the stakes if someone you care about or 5+ innocent bystanders will also suffer if you fail (note: if they are also an entropomancer, you can't take this bonus)

Significant Stakes:
  • +1: 3-harm
  • +2: all your cash, lose something very valuable and irreplaceable
  • +3: death or debility (permanent injury)
  • add +1 to the stakes (except for death or debility) if someone you care about or 5+ innocent bystanders will also suffer if you fail (note: if they are also an entropomancer, you can't take this bonus)

Major Stakes:
  • +1: death for you* and 10 innocent bystanders
  • +2: death for you* and someone you truly love

* This is a very real risk; you can't take a debility--if you lose, you all die, no weaseling out

Magick and other moves can never be used to modify this move--you have to take the risk; if you don't actually take the risk, you don't get the charge. Similarly, if you think you're at risk but actually aren't (e.g. you play Russian roulette with a gun you think is loaded, but it actually isn't) then you don't get the charge (and also don't need to roll, since there's no real danger).

Epideromancer Charging

Epideromancers hurt themselves in exchange for charges. Similar to dipsomancers (who suffer -5% to all skills per drink in the original UA rules), there's a bit of a challenge because the harm clock in AW is far less granular than wound points in UA. Like drinks, saying "every charge requires 1-harm" would dramatically cut down the number of charges an epideromancer could get.

Here's my rough draft of a move that hopefully make each injuries count and still work with AW.

When you hurt yourself deliberately, choose an option below and gain charges as indicated:
  • Small injury: Take 1 minor charge per injury Hold taken (max 4 Hold at a time). You may spend Hold at any time to (choose 1): Take -1 right now or choose an option from the 7-9 list of the suffer harm choices. Healing: Every two days, remove one Hold.
  • Deliberate injury: Take 1 significant charge for each 1-harm taken.  Healing: Harm heals normally, but you can't get medical care from others (that breaks your taboo) and you can't use magick to heal it, so time is the only way to heal these injuries (note that this means going about 6:00 harm means you're going to have to stabilize yourself with mundane first aid to avoid getting worse, meaning there's pretty real practical cap on how much you can do to yourself... assuming you plan on living through it, of course).
  • Permanent injury: Take 1 major charge if you permanently injure yourself (take a debility; -1 to a stat). You may not take more than one debility to the same stat. Healing: You can't. It's permanent, duh.

When you have a week or more of downtime in the fiction, roll+cool. On a 10+, gain +3 minor or +1 significant charges. On a 7-9, gain +1 injury Hold and 3 minor charges. On a miss, choose +1 injury Hold or lose 1 minor charge.

Taboo: If you ever let another modify your body (including medical attention, pedicures, hair cuts, etc.), you immediately lose all charges.


Like I said, everything above is still in a rough form, but I'm pleased with how it's coming together. I think that the other schools will be easier to do charging moves (though I'm not sure how to handle giving up memories for mechanomancers yet...)

Pages: 1 [2] 3