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]
brainstorming & development / Re: Unknown Armies: Adept Magick
« on: December 29, 2011, 11:52:14 AM »
More on casting moves

Revised casting moves

In the first post above, I roughly drafted out three casting moves (I'm ignoring the creation magic, like mechanomancers and narco-alchemists, because they're a separate thing). As I've been thinking about it, I've revised it a little. There's still 3 different casting moves, but the conditions when you use them has been tweaked:

  • cast under fire: when you cast a formula spell while the shit's raining down on you and it's do-or-die (basically like the blast move above, except the key isn't what kind of spell you're casting, but whether someone or something's trying to harm you or screw you over right the fuck now)
  • bitch slap reality: when cast a formula spell to get what you want and no one and nothing is breathing right down your neck (identical to the cast a formula spell move above--it's all about whether you cast successfully and what are the consequences from the magick itself)
  • winging it: when you try to cast a spell that isn't a formula spell (identical to the cast a random spell move above--it's similar to formula spells except it's pretty much a given things go at least a little wonky and the question is how much)

In case it isn't clear from the above descriptions, my thinking here is based on the consequences of weak hits and strong hits. Random spells almost always have unwanted unnatural phenomena, and are harder to pull off successfully. If you're being shot at, then (like seize by force) the questions of whether you succeed and whether you avoid what they're doing are both included in the same roll. If you have a relatively calm moment and you're casting a formula spell, then the focus of the move is on how well you cast and how much you keep down the consequences.

Stats for moves

I was originally thinking that Weird would be rolled for all magic, but I've changed my mind. Weird is still a big part of the unnatural in the setting and is important to adepts; it represents their grasp of the weird, how well they can think contradictory, paradoxical thoughts at the same time, etc.. It's used for casting random spells, but not formula spells (which are internalized beyond the point where you're making it up as you go).

Here's what I'm thinking about stats for each move:

  • cast under fire: roll+cool (bullets are flying, but you better not let that make you sloppy, chump)
  • bitch slap reality: roll+sharp* (perception and brains are key here--you know what to do, so do it right, you know?)
  • winging it: roll+weird (it's all about gonzo thinking and wrestling reality into shape on-the-fly)

* I'm thinking about making bitch slap reality use different stats depending on which Theme of school you have. If I do that, I think Acquisition and Hierarchy schools use sharp, Control schools use hard(?) (I also considered cool, but like it being different than winging it ), and Hierarchy schools use hot.

(This is one of several topics about my Unknown Armies hack: See THIS TOPIC for general notes about this UA hack and THIS TOPIC for notes about Adept Magick.)

The GM's job in this Unknown Armies hack will be very similar to the MC's job in Apocalypse World. The style of GMing that AW uses is one of the biggest draws for me to do a UA hack into AW in the first place. There will be differences in flavor, of course (e.g. the gonzo weirdness of the UA setting replaces apocalyptica).

GMing Unknown Armies[/size/

Agenda & Always Say
The list for "Agenda" and "Always Say" for UA hack is identical to AW (except replacing "Apocalypse World" with "Unknown Armies", of course).

The Principles

The list of principles is also the same, except that Barf Forth Apocalyptica becomes something like Suffuse everything with the weird and occult (I'll word it better than that eventually).

GM's Moves

Again, for the most part the list  is the same as AW. I'm not sure if I need to create new moves for things like unnatural phenomena that come up  in UA, or whether those can just be easily folded into the existing GM moves with the Principles to guide flavor?

The 1st Session

The basic idea will be the same, though the Threats on the sheet (Hunger, Ignorance, Fear, etc.) will be re-skinned to fit UA (see below). I don't have much to say yet, but I'm putting it down as a reminder to myself to come back to this (and also to invite any suggestions or thoughts).


I think that the same basic idea applies, but again I might change the exact wording.

Fundamental Scarcity

UA isn't about scarcity like AW is, but obsession isn't that different from hunger or thirst in some ways (the motivation is different but the effect is similar). I'll need to change the name to something besides "Fundamental Scarcity"... maybe just "Theme" or something like that?

This list is a quick draft off the top of my head and almost certain to change:

  • Alienation
  • Decay
  • Perversion
  • Ignorance
  • Fear
  • Envy
  • Ambition
  • Cosmic/Transcendence
  • Obsession


The same basic principle as AW certainly applies, though I'll need to make a new list (even if some of the changes are cosmetic/flavor).

This is a first draft going through the AW list of threats and will likely change dramatically before the final version:

Boss (based on Warlord and part of Brute)
  • Cult leader (impulse: to own people)
  • Prophet (impulse: to overthrow the status quo)
  • Collector (impulse: to own)
  • Alpha wolf (impulse: to hunt and dominate)
  • Executive (impulse: to increase power and wealth)
  • Dictator (impulse: to control)
  • Glutton (impulse: craves satiety and plenty)
  • Pain addict (impulse: craves pain, its own or others)
  • Mindfucker (impulse: craves mastery)
  • Savage (impulse: craves freedom and mastery)
  • Godwalker (impulse: craves transcendence)
Society (partially based on Afflictions and partially on Brutes)
  • Law Enforcement (impulse: to restrict & punish transgression)
  • Mobs (impulse: to riot, burn, kill scapegoats)
  • Cults (impulse: to victimize & incorporate people)
  • Family (impulse: to close ranks, protect their own)
  • Movement (impulse: to identify and attack outsiders)
  • Violence (impulse: to justify and promote violence)
  • Social norms (impulse: to victimize anyone who stands out)
  • Everyday life (impulse: to dominate and restrict people's choices)
Locations (based on Landscapes)--I'll probably change the names of the below, but the impulses fit
  • Prison (impulse: to contain)
  • Breeding pit (impulse: to generate badness)
  • Furnace (impulse: to consume things)
  • Mirage (impulse: to entice and betray people)
  • Maze (impulse: to trap, to frustrate passage)
  • Fortress (impulse: to deny access)
The Unnatural (partially based on Afflictions)
  • Artifacts (impulse: to be desired and fought over)
  • Unnatural phenomena (impulse: to trigger obsession or fear)
  • Unnatural beings (impulse: to preserve own existence)
  • Demons (impulse: to lie and to get a body)
  • Invisible clergy (impulse: to manipulate events in their own image)

Agenda / Dark Future

Really the same as AW


Also the same as AW. I might tweak the list of stakes to stick to in the beginning, but I haven't thought about it much yet.


Again, same basic idea as AW. However, my gut feeling is that UA isn't quite as friendly as AW to the idea that every NPC is defined and you never deal with faceless transactions (e.g. in UA, you can and do go to the grocery store and buy food from faceless tellers that you don't interact with in any meaningful way. (In fact, I'm pondering a peripheral move that's like "Circles" in Burning Wheel, since the extended cast and the society around the PCs is so much more populous than AW.)

I think it might be part of the difference between the mundane world and the Occult Underground: in the underground everyone is an individual and there are no faceless interactions...

Overall Countdowns

I see Countdown clocks working exactly the same way in UA that they do in AW.


Creating and incorporating motifs into a campaign is a fun piece of advice in UA. Motifs aren't exactly in AW (though the advice about apocalyptica and asking questions about the Psychic Maelstrom and re-incorporating, etc., drive at a similar goal, I think).

This ties to the Suffuse everything with the weird and occult Principle. I like the tip in UA to create a list of Motifs that will be recurring elements in the setting.

Maybe these can be done spontaneously or built up through uses of the "Open Your Brain" move (which will be  tweaked and renamed, but work the same as it does in AW in general--see the first thread linked above). Or maybe as part of creating Fronts, each Front will have a couple Motifs attached to it (with the Home Front also having several Motifs).

However I do it, I'm planning on making the establishment and use of motifs a part of GMing this UA hack.


More to come later. I welcome any comments.

brainstorming & development / Re: Unknown Armies: Adept Magick
« on: December 27, 2011, 04:32:44 PM »
Formula Spells

At the most basic level, formula spells work like they do in UA. Each has a cost in charges (e.g. "1 minor charge", "2 significant charges", etc.) and each has an effect. The effects are descriptions of what happens if you cast the spell successfully; the moves to cast formula spells are covered in the first post above.

Effects and Sympathies (DIY Spells)

One of my goals is to make it pretty straight-forward to invent new schools and new formula spells. This is all still in the rough draft phase, but I'm thinking something like this:

There are a limited number of spell effects that cover the most common uses of magick in UA. It's possible for the GM or players to come up with new effects if it's really necessary, but try not to.

Each school has a list of Sympathies that are part of its Domain (a Domain is the core concept of a school's magick). Sympathies are what formula spells can be done to or with. If you're familiar with Ars Magica, they're sort of like the Forms, except that they're more limited and work more along thematic lines than taxonomic lines (e.g. Ars Magica has Forms like animals, plants, mental, fire, but the plutomancy school has Sympathies like money, bargains, prices/values, money-related machines, etc.).

Each formula spell is a combination of a basic effect (sort of like the Technique or  "verb" in Ars Magica) and a Sympathy. The same basic effect with a different Sympathy (e.g. an urbanomancer spell to look into a window and see what that window has "seen" in the last 24 hours vs. a spell to catch a rat, bond it, then send it off and control it and see through its eyes are the same basic effect with different Sympathies and they are different formula spells).

Another note is that there will be minor effects (which cost minor charges) and significant effects (which cost significant charges). Like UA, there won't be a list of major effects, but rather some ideas of the kinds of things a major charge could be used for.

Effects by School Theme

There will be a number of effects (such as seeing through the eyes--literal or figurative--of a sympathetic connection) and there will be considerable overlap between the five themes of schools (see the other UA thread linked above for a list of the school Themes). However, each Theme will have a different set of options and there can be differences between the  same effect for different Themes (e.g. the same effect might cost a Control school 2 minor charges but cost an Acquisition or Hierarchy school 1 significant charge, while not being available at all to the other two Themes).

Also, not every school will have every effect (e.g Dipsomancers, Entropomancers, and Epideromancers are all "Control" Theme schools and there is overlap in their formula spell effects, but each of the three schools only has a subset of the Control Theme effects).

When creating a new school, you'll pick a certain number of the effects from that Theme (it probably won't be an exact number--more like "pick 7-9 of the following"). Then you'll assign a single Sympathy to that particular effect (defining the Sympathies of the School is another step of school creation). Then you'll name that effect and describe it. Viola! You've made a list of formula spells for your new school.

The DIY formula spell lists are also handy because as advanced advancement options, adepts can create new formula spells beyond the normal options available for their School.

Core Schools' Spells

My assumption is that the majority of players will pick one of the twelve core schools in the UA 2nd ed. core book.

Accordingly, I'm going to create the formula spell lists for the main 12 schools. This means that if you play a core school, you don't have to make a formula spell list and it also acts as examples for creating new schools.


I'm currently working on deconstructing the formula spells in UA, converting them to AW mechanics, and making a list of effects. Then I'll need to split them among the Themes (who has what effects?), etc. I'll post my work-in-progress as I go.

As always, comments welcome...

brainstorming & development / Re: Unknown Armies hack
« on: December 27, 2011, 02:49:14 PM »
I created a new topic to talk about Adept magick (HERE). I'll continue to put general rules and notes in this thread.

EDIT: I also created another topic to talk about GMing the UA hack (principles, 1st session, fronts, threats, etc.) HERE.

brainstorming & development / Unknown Armies: Adept Magick
« on: December 27, 2011, 02:47:57 PM »
This is for the same hack as THIS. I'm starting a new topic because that thread is already full of a bunch of really wordy posts and I wanted to pull magick out and discuss it separately.

I'm not going to repeat some of the basics I already mentioned in the other thread, so you should read that before reading this. The first and second posts have the stuff on magick, so you can read just those if you aren't interested in other UA hack related topics...

Magick Moves

First off, there will be four basic magick moves. Really, there are three magick moves, but the Creation adepts (mechanomancers and narco-alchemists) have a separate move instead of the three the other kinds of adepts have).

Every school (except the Creation schools) will have the first two options but only some will have Blasts. The Creation schools don't have blasts or formula spells. They always have their magick creation move and they might or might not have random spells.

  • Formula spells
  • Random spells
  • Blasts
  • Creation

Formula spells

These are the most predictable and familiar spells. They're probably what will be used most often by most adepts. These are selected at character creation (see below) and new formulas can be created and/or purchased later with advances.

Each formula spell you know will have a cost (sometimes multiple costs for different variations) and an effect that you can spend Charges on (similar to how you spend Hold). I'll talk more about formula spells and how they're set up later.

The move will be based on seize by force and will look something like this (this is a very rough draft with some placeholders that need to be filled in later):

When you cast a formula spell that you know, roll+weird. On a hit, you cast the spell successfully (spend the indicated charges), and choose options. On a 10+, pick 3. On a 7-9, pick 2:
  • there are no unintended minor unnatural phenomena
  • you don't suffer a minor backlash
  • unhardened witnesses freeze or run (GM's choice) at the unnatural display
  • you do not leave yourself vulnerable or draw unwanted attention
  • you succeed particularly well (I'll list some of the options from spell casting "cherries" from UA)
On a miss, either the spell fails (no charges are spent) or it succeeds and choose 2:
  • the spell costs double the regular charges
  • suffer a major backlash
  • significant unnatural phenomena occurs

The "backlash" and "unnatural phenomena" choices above aren't spelled out yet. Unnatural phenomena is basically handing the GM an unnatural move on a silver platter. Backlash is probably a list of choices based on the spell casting "sour cherries" list from UA. I need to flesh that list out.

Basically, if you get a minor hit (7-9), something bad is going to happen--either one consequence (vulnerable/unwanted attention, backlash, or minor unnatural phenomena), or two consequences if you want to go for a bonus (they freak out or you succeed strongly). If you get a strong hit (10+), you can either choose that nothing bad happens (which usually also means that you blocked your opponent's move, if applicable) or else you can go for bonuses at the cost of one or more consequences.

Random spells

Random spells are different from formula spells in two main ways: You make up an effect that fits within the random magickal domain of your school (which is more limited in many ways), and it's significantly harder and more prone to unnatural phenomena, even when successful.

I need to give some more guidance about what random spells can do. I also need to give some guidelines for how much charges they should cost. Like UA, this will be pretty flexible in what it can do (within the narrow confines of the school's random magick domain) and will tend to be more expensive than formula spells would be.

Again, this is a rough draft of the move and it may change:

When you cast a random spell, roll+weird. On a 10+, you cast the spell (spend charges), plus a minor unnatural phenomena occurs. On a 7-9, you cast the spell (spend charges), but also choose 2:
  • the unnatural phenomena is only minor instead of significant
  • you don't suffer a minor backlash
  • you do not leave yourself vulnerable or draw unwanted attention
On a miss, either the spell fails (no charges are spent) or it succeeds and choose 2:
  • the spell costs double the regular charges
  • suffer a major backlash
  • significant unnatural phenomena occurs


Blasts are a combat move; charges are spent, basically, to create a weapon with harm (and tags?). This move is usually used in place of seize by force, where the blast spell is your "force" and the consequences are expanded to include magickal mayhem. For situations outside of toe-to-toe combat (like using a blast spell to strike from ambush or to kill a tied-up and helpless target, etc., cast a formula spell and spend charges to determine the harm.

My current idea is that you use the seize by force move as written, with two differences:
  • spend charges to determine the harm (and tags?), and
  • on a failure, you suffer backlash or unnatural phenomena, in addition to whatever other moves the GM chooses to make.

I expect that I'll wind up writing a custom move to use, rather than modifying seize by force, but I'm running out of time and I'll have to come back to it.


I haven't really worked on this one as much and don't have a draft of a move yet. Mechanomancers make clockwork machines that have stats and moves of their own. Narco-alchemists imbue special magickal effects into drugs (which still have their innate effect). Any new "Creation" schools might do something similar but different.

It seems to me like you create a thing and then imbue something special into it (whether that's autonomous action, magickal effects if imbibed, etc.)

I'll have to flesh it out later.

Formula Spells

I'm out of time, so I'll make this my next reply.

brainstorming & development / Re: Unknown Armies hack
« on: December 27, 2011, 01:51:08 AM »
Thanks for your comments, grepogor!

Seize by Force

It's funny... I've read the seize by force move a dozen times and I'd built up a very distinct idea of what the move did. I haven't played Apocalypse World yet; I'm currently running a Dungeon World campaign, so I feel like I have at least a fair idea of how AW would run at the table, but seize by force isn't in DW.

Anyway, I hadn't ever thought about the move the way you described it (it always felt like a more... "militant" move to me, like a battle scene instead of a fight scene, or something). I'm not sure why I had that idea; I haven't read it again in the last month or two, so it hasn't been fresh in my mind while working on this hack. But I reread the move a couple times after reading your reply and, for whatever reason, the move looks entirely different to me now. I think it was the name.

Further, I'd been looking at the two systems (Unknown Armies and Apocalypse World) and how they work (e.g. both, for the most part, have the PC rolling against a fixed difficulty that wasn't based on the specific situation, but rather on what's on the character's sheet--whether AW's miss/weak hit/strong hit or UA's rolling against your own skill). For reasons too long to explain right now, the act under fire move in AW struck me as similar to the "major skill checks" in UA, while most of the other AW moves felt more like "significant skill checks" (with "minor skill checks usually being stuff you don't bother rolling for in AW). That thought in the back of my head had lead me to think about act under fire as the default move to whip out whenever there was major consequences and you were rolling under intense pressure. I hadn't thought about it for a few days before writing my initial post, but I think it colored my sense that act under fire would basically replace seize by force for toe-to-toe combat.

Long story short, I'm reconsidering including Seize by Force... :-)


Thanks for your thoughts on Madness Meters, as well. I've been thinking about Madness a lot since reading your post and below are my current thoughts:

The Meters

I like your idea of cutting down to only three meters and I think your split makes sense. Violence and Unnatural feel distinct and are two that play a very immediate role in how many conflict scenes play out. The other three (Helplessness, Isolation, and Self) seem more similar in effect and stresses; I'm struggling to articulate exactly what they have in common, but I think it's that Violence and Unnatural are more likely to make you freak out right the fuck now, while Self, Isolation, and Loneliness are more likely to eat at you and erode you and totally fuck with your sense of who and what you are.

I even think it can be called "Self" and the lists of stresses can be combined. Even though there are differences between the three, Isolation and Helplessness hit you in a similar way to the cognitive dissonance of having done something you didn't think you would ever do...

Hardened Notches and Stress

I've also been intrigued by your idea about cutting down to a single stress track. While I want at least the three stress types for Hardened notches, I don't necessarily want to split them for the stress track (the Madness Clock).

In UA the only difference that the rank of the stress makes is to determine whether or not you make a stress check; it doesn't impact the difficulty of the check or change the severity of consequences.

Basically it works like this:

  • If the rank of the stress is higher than your Hardened, then roll; if it's equal to or lower, then don't roll
  • If you succeed at your roll, mark the lowest unmarked Hardened notch (i.e. your Hardened goes up by one)
  • If you fail, mark the lowest unmarked Failed notch (i.e. your Failed goes up by one) and choose one of the reactions: panic, paralysis, or frenzy

So translated into AW mechanics, every failed stress check does 1-stress regardless of the severity of the stress trigger and every successful stress check causes +1-hardened.

If I use that system, then the Hardened wouldn't act as armor; instead they'd act as the threshold of whether or not you have to roll.

Hmm. So I'm trying to choose between that or treating stress as harm and Hardened as armor (e.g., a 5-stress event against a 2-hardened character would cause 3-stress).

What I'm currently leaning towards is having 3 separate "Hardened" tracks (one for each of the three madness meters) but only a single madness clock (so there would be a harm clock and a madness clock). This is in large part because suffering a mental derangement is based on any track filling with failed notches; the only difference the balance of failed notches across stress tracks makes in UA is the description of how your character acts (4 failed notches in Violence has different quirks and ticks than 4 failed notches in Self, for example). While those descriptions are great, the amount of simplification that can happen by having a single madness clock is worth the loss, I think (KISS).

The Stress Check

The stress check will be handled by a new peripheral move something like this:

When you suffer stress greater than your Hardened rank, roll+hard. On a 10+, get +1-hardened. On a 7-9, choose 1.
  • get +1-hardened
  • flip-out (panic, paralysis, or frenzy)

On a miss, take 1-stress and flip-out (panic, paralysis, or frenzy).

In UA, if you fail a stress check you have to choose one of three reactions (in addition to gaining another failed notch): Panic, Paralysis, or Frenzy. They're basically what they sound like (run away, freeze like a deer in the headlights, or attack the source of your stress until the cause of the stress is gone). These are built into the move above.

I'm thinking that the above move is only for acute stresses with a clear source (like most Violent or Unnatural stresses). For chronic or diffuse stresses (like isolation for extended periods or the cognitive dissonance of having done something you didn't think you could ever do) I'm thinking there would still be a move, but either you wouldn't have to choose one of those reactions (it's all about the slow erosion into madness without the moment of flipping out) or maybe there's a separate list (like Withdraw, Anxiety, or Anger, or something like that--I haven't really worked on it yet).

Stress Ranks

In UA, there are 10 stress ranks and Hardened goes up to 10. I'm trying to decide if I want to condense that. It would be easy to condense it to, say, 5 ranks by saying that rank 1 & 2 stresses become 1-stress, rank 3 & 4 stresses become 2-stress, and so on up to rank 9 & 10 being 5-stress.

This would have two main impacts:

  • The size of the list of stresses and the number of Hardened notches
  • How long it took to become a sociopath (see below)

I really don't know whether I'll do 10 (like UA), 5 (halving the list), 6 (and making them clocks?), or some other number...

Getting Crazy

If the madness clock fills up completely, that doesn't mean you're "taken out" or out of play. Instead you don't roll anymore: If the stress is under your Hardened, nothing happens and if it's over, then you automatically choose a reaction as if you failed.

The first time the clock fills up, you pick up a mental aberration. These are basically disorders that are "permanent" unless cured and that are closely tied to your obsession.

You can walk around with your madness clock filled all the way for most of the game, really.

Also, I'll need to figure out if that's too fast. 6 "slots" on the clock is potentially only 6 rolls away if you fail consistently... It might also depend on how available treatment and "mental first aid" are. It probably isn't worse than wounds, as long as treatment is fairly easy to get.

Getting Callous

Hardness is not benign; it helps you deal with stress, but you become callous. Mental stress makes characters vulnerable, but also makes them human.

In UA, you become a sociopath if two hardened tracks fill up all 10 hardened notches or if the character's total hardened notches exceeds 35. You suffer the below consequences until you get treatment

  • You can no longer use your Passions*
  • If you're an avatar, you can't use that avatar skill

(*Passions have a mechanical impact, so this is not just a role-playing change--I haven't talked about it yet, but I will)

The exact number (e.g. 35) would change since there's only 3 tracks now. Also, as I mentioned above, I might use a different number than 10 for the number of stress ranks and the number of hardened notches. But I am planning on having a threshold where you become so calloused that you're a sociopath.


There will be rules for healing madness and hardness (in fact, the moves will probably be more detailed than the harm moves, since I'm not planning on having an Angel equivalent--there's a first aid move to stabilize someone who's dying and the rules for healing naturally are the same as AW, but if you go to a hospital, that's more of a time and narrative thing than a move--i.e. it's like going to an NPC Angel in AW).

The rules for helping madness will be similar to the UA rules (mental help before they're crazy and after they're crazy, plus "psychological first aid"). I'll work on defining those moves once I have the madness system nailed down, but they'll probably look something like on a 10+, remove a madness stress and a hardened rank, on a 7-9, choose one.

Madness and NPC's

NPC's Flipping-out

NPC's are definitely vulnerable to madness, especially flipping out (panic, paralysis, or frenzy). It seems to me like this is mainly relevant in fights or similar conflicts. The longer-term stuff, like is an NPC going crazy, is probably better handled as GM moves rather than mechanics, but knowing if they totally flip-out is definitely relevant in a fight.

So... my three current ideas are:

  • to work it into the Basic Moves and other Character moves (so NPC's flipping out in your favor is a choice you can take for certain moves--mainly violent or unnatural ones)
  • to make it GM moves (so the GM can have them run away or go berserk or whatever), or
  • to have a separate peripheral move to determine if they freak out and how

I don't like the third option. I'm leaning towards a combo of the first two: Some moves have stress reactions built in and also stress reactions are part of the GM moves.

How hardened the NPC is against that particular kind of stress (Violence, Unnatural, etc.) can be a tag for NPC's and groups. How it all plays out is up to the GM, based on principles (e.g. barf forth apocalyptica (revised for the UA setting, look through crosshairs, respond with fuckery and intermittent rewards, etc.).


The rules for groups rioting is something I like in UA that helps give certain tenets of the setting some teeth. Unlike personal madness and flipping out for NPC's (see above), I'm thinking this should be a peripheral move. Like suffers harm, it's one that you want to miss. The bonus to the roll would be based on how overt the effect is (and/or modified by the size of the crowd, etc.).  I'll worry about the specifics later but wanted to jot it down while I was thinking about it.


I'm out of time tonight (I've already stayed up too late). As always, any and all responses and comments are very welcome!

brainstorming & development / Re: Unknown Armies hack
« on: December 23, 2011, 05:05:25 PM »
A couple more thoughts:

Obsession, Passion Stimuli, & "Qualities"

Like in UA, each character will pick an Obsession (for adpets it must relate to their school of magick) plus three Passion Stimuli (Fear Stimulus, Rage Stimulus, and Noble Stimulus). These four are the mandatory "Qualities" that every character has*. They'll be part of the questions in each playbook.

Other Qualities are picked up from "general moves" (see below).

Qualities act as flags for the GM. On the one hand, they don't have mechanical punch (well, the Obsession and the Passion Stimuli have other rules--I'll talk about those later--but that's in addition to their status as Qualities), but they're where the GM looks first during GM moves. I'll revise or add GM moves so that they often point at Qualities.

(*The Innocent playbook doesn't have an Obsession... theyy're whole shtik is that they're sucked into the Occult Underground unwittingly through no fault of their own and are caught up in something that revolves around them but that they don't understand. This impacts their "Open Mind" move--see below--but they also have either changing to another playbook or else completing their storyline and retiring very hard-coded into their advancement options.)

Open Mind and Obsession and/or Archetype

The Open Your Mind basic move (which I'm going to rename) is always filtered through your Obsession (unless you're an Avatar--see below). When the GM gives you your vague impressions, they always revolve around and/or incorporate your Obsession.

If, however, you are an Avatar, your Archetype "overrides" your Obsession. You're on a cosmic path now and that supercedes and subsumes your own destiny in many way. If you are an Avatar, then the Open Your Mind is about your Archetype primarily and your Obsession secondarily (and sometimes not at all).

Also, Innocents don't have the Open Your Mind move; instead they'll have some sort of "things tweak in your favor" and/or "the mentor appears" kind of thing (I don't know exactly what yet, but being out of their depth and not in-the-know is big part of the playbook concept).

Thaumaturge Playbook

I'm going to add another (quasi-)mundane playbook: The Thaumaturge. Like the Innocent, The thaumaturge doesn't match to a category of Adepts.

Thaumaturges have more moves and/or crap for rituals and/or Avatar channels. Basically, any character (mundane or adept) can have a coupel rituals and any mundane character can be an Avatar or the 1st channel level, but only a thaumaturge can be a full "authentic thaumaturgist" and/or an Avatar with 2nd channel or higher moves at character creation.

More Thoughts on "General Moves" and  "Qualities"

I mentioned general moves in an earlier post. I've been revising my thinking.

Basically I'm thinking of a sort of "do it yourself" thing here that is sot of similar to "stunts" in the Dresden Files RPG (if you're familiar with that).

There are a range of mechanical things that a "general move" can do, like +1 in narrow situations, add a question to a Read... move, stat substitution in narrow situations, give you leverage to manipulate or seduce (e.g. you have money, you have mafia connections, you are gorgeous, you have a badge, you have security clearance, etc.), and so forth. I haven't really nailed down the list yet, but that should give you the general idea.

Adding on this, every general move requires a corresponding "Quality", which is added up by your Obsession and Passion Stimuli. You can have multiple "general moves" attached to a single Quality or you can have a different Quality for each "general move".

This does a couple things. The biggest one is narrative. Like I mentioned above, Qualities make tempting targets for GMs. It means both that your "general moves" choices have narrative significance and that you get to tell the GM the kind of stuff you want to keep coming up.

I might categorize Qualities (e.g. "affiliations", "personality", etc.) but I don't currently think it's necessary. If I think of a way that it adds, I'll do it.

You also have to name your "general move"--this is absolutely not optional.

I'll also have a fairly substantial list of examples.

Stat Caps

One thing with the way I'm thinking about doing "general moves" as well as some preliminary thoughts on Obsessions, Passion Stimuli, and magick, is that +1 to rolls are going to be fairly easy to come by if you're doing something your character focuses on. And Help is going to be fairly easy in a fair number of circumstances, too.

Based on my quick look at the probabilities of AW, a +4 is ridiculously good (only 2.8% chance of a miss and 25% chance of a weak hit, so 72.2% chance of a strong hit) and +5 is even worse.

So my thinking is that stats are capped at +2, period, end of story. If there are +1stat moves (and I'm kind of leaning against it), then +2 is the cap.

Further, you may only ever get +1 to a roll from stuff on your  character sheet (if you have 3 things that each could give +1, you only get +1 total) and you can only ever get +1 from any external source (help, tilt rituals by other people, etc.). So the most you can ever get is +2 total (and hopefully +2 is pretty rare--if not, I may say you can never get more than +1 ever).

With a cap of +2stat, that means that +3 will be fairly common in your specialty and +4 is possible (in other words, like AW, unless I'm missing something--which is certainly possible).


As always, comments are very welcome!

brainstorming & development / Re: Unknown Armies hack
« on: December 23, 2011, 02:50:12 PM »
(I had to split into two posts because it exceeded teh maximum length...)

Madness Meters

Madness meters are absolutely core to UA, in my opinion. My current plan is to treat them as "wound tracks" basically.

"Hardened" notches will work like they do in UA (if the stress is equal to or less than your number of notches, you don't take stress, etc.). "Failed" notches will also work the same, basically.

There will be a "when you take stress to one of your madness meters" move that is similar to the taking wounds move in AW, but which incorporates some of the ticks and madness consequences that come from stress damage. It will also cover things like freezing, running, etc. (giving choices of exactly what you do when you flip out, like in UA).

(I might wind up making hardened notches like AW armor (e.g. the roll = roll+stress level-hardened notches), but I probably won't, since you can't roll +10 in AW...)

It's more record keeping than AW usually is and it's a bit more complex than wounds, but basically it should work very similar to how it works in UA (with a peripheral move instead of rolling Mind), so I don't anticipate any major issues (e.g. it isn't more record-keeping than it is in UA).

Basic Moves and Peripheral Moves

The Basic Moves are mostly the same.

Open Your Mind (Weird) will work very similarly, but instead of opening to the psychic Maelstrom, it's paying attention and looking for the weird and occult and unnatural in a scene. Basically, its UA flavored. If you've read Last Call or the other books in that series by Tim Powers, many of them have idiosyncratic ways of doing mini-divinations, plus the UA stories and setting are full of weird coincidences and portents--those are the kind of stuff I have in mind. And, like the AW move, it encourages the players to ask the GM to throw in weirdness and it also gives a move for when they don't know what else to do. So really, it's just a re-skinning for the UA setting. Plus, Greg Stolze mentioned in one of the UA supplements that giving visions or flashes is so useful he's surprised he didn't make it a free move that every character has...

Seize by Force is being cut completely. It just doesn't seem to fit the vibe of UA to me.

Instead, I need to make a combat move...


The deadliness of combat is another core trait of UA, in my opinion. I want to capture that... but I also want to tweak it.

"Act Under Fire" (or a tweaked version of it) is the core combat move. You have to roll a strong hit before you do what you want without bad stuff happening back. That said, "failure" from weak hits is about hard choices. I don't really want characters dying left and right (though I don't want it completely off the table, either). Getting hurt is often a choice, but so are other, often more painful, consequences.

I'm thinking that there will be one or more playbook moves that allow a different style of combat. There will also be a lot of emphasis on how it's set up.

I'm also thinking of making a separate move for gunfights, but I'll look at that closer when I get to that point--basically if I decide it adds something, I'll do it, if not then I won't.

Going Aggro is a much better option when you can set it up that way (for one thing, if they push you, you'll actually get to shoot them instead of having to roll a 10+ or else accept some nasty choice). Plus, usually you want something if you're pulling out a gun or knife (even if it's to get them to back the fuck off and leave you alone).

Or shooting them from behind or while they're tied up is also good.

And like UA, combat shouldn't be the first choice (I loved the first page of UA, 2nd ed. combat chapter with its "6 ways to avoid a fight" article). Violence happens, but going toe-to-toe, in a fair fight, and trying to kill them is a dangerous thing to do and you aren't likely to walk out unscathed. I see it usually happening when something else gets botched or when they call you when you go aggro.


This is an important area, obviously. I'm playing around with several ideas but nothing is fully gelled yet and nothing is set in stone.

Adept Magick

I've mainly played with two approaches here: 1) Either each formula spell is a move and there's a move for random magick, or 2) there's a more generic set of moves (with each of the five "themes" of adepts having a different combination of them) and a set of "qualities"/"domains"/etc. by school that determine what you can do those moves with and/or to (sort of like an Ars Magica "Verb"/"Noun" system, but with both the verbs and nouns having a very different flavor and categorizations, since it is absolutely not meant to be a universal magick system--an Urbanomancer can mess with traffic, groups in his city, crowds, city hierarchies, even city vermin, but he can't do jack to traffic on a country highway and he can't do shit to probability in a gambling den (even if he could get the game interrupted by police or make you get in a wreck on your way home).

I lean towards the second, but I'm only willing to go for a more streamlined, flexible system if it keeps the UA feel. Often "universal magic systems" have entirely the wrong feel (like I mentioned, I don't want it to feel like Mage the Awakening or Ars Magica). So for now I'm going to try (and I'm optimistic), but I may end up scrapping it.

Charging Moves and Charges

I'm pretty sure that each adept school will each have a charging move. What that looks like will depend on which of the five  "themes" it belongs to.

For example, "Control" schools (dipsomancers, entropomancers, and epideromancers) are all about harm and penalties now in exchange for charges (or, in the case of entropomancers, the real chance of injury, penalty, or consequences). These are things that are done real-time in scenes. You do the harm (e.g. getting drunk, cutting yourself) or take the risk (e.g. playing catch with knives) and suffer the consequences. And you get the charge immediately.

The Acquisition, Hierarchy, and Manipulation schools are more about setting up and "harvesting" charges. They're handled like either "gigs" or surplus/want resources from AW. They're primarily done between sessions or in downtime, though each has the ability to happen real-time (like finding a rare book during a scene or being given cash). The three will have differences in how they're set up, but I'm not far enough along yet to say exactly what they are. (As an aside, I love how AW handles things like gigs and surplus/want and it's one of the things that really made me want to convert UA to AW, since in UA, certain schools just seemed so much easier to get charges and other schools often felt like they had to derail the story for a bit to get charges).

And finally, Creation schools have to spend the time and resources. they work similar to Savvyhead workspaces ("to make X you need to do/find/spend A, B, and C"). They also have something they can sacrifice to add to that (mechanomancers can give up memories and narqis can get high, suffering a penalty).

That's not all there is to getting charges (e.g. Mechanomancers and dipsomancers both can use significant historical artifacts to get extra juice, like drinking out of the coffee cup JFK used during the Cuban Missile Crisis or incorporating the first gramaphone into a machine), but that's the basics. I also haven't talked about the diffrence between Minor, Significant, and Major charges, yet. that's because I haven't worked it out completely yet.

Once you have charges, I'm not exactly sure how to handle them. I'm leaning towards mimicking UA: You keep a tally (so you might have 6 minor charges, 2 significant charges, and 0 major charges after building up for awhile) and you spend them for spells. They're sort of like "Hold", I suppose (I've idly wondered if there's a way I can make them Hold and do something clever to take advantage of AW mechanics, but nothing's come to mind yet...).

I'm also sort of brainstorming about simplifying it a bit or tweaking it to take advantage of AW mechanics. I only have very rough ideas, so I'll let them stew longer and talk about them later.


Similarly, each "theme" of school has a type of taboo. For the most part, if you violate your taboo you're stripped of all your charges.

"Control" schools can't give up their source of mystic control (e.g. dipsomancers can't sober up). "Acquisition" schools can't give away what they have (even for a good reason--e.g. plutomancers may be rich but live as paupers) and can't damage the thing they collect. "Hierarchy" schools must constantly be in contact with their obsession and can't be away from it long (e.g. videomancers can't miss an episode of any of their shows). "Creation" schools are limited to their own, bizarre, hyper-specialized variation of a common form of creation and are largely cut off from the bulk of mainstream equivalents (e.g. mechanomancers can't incorporate any piece of functioning tech that came int ocommon usage after the 1800's). "Manipulation" schools use a type of human interaction for power but are cut off from authentic, non-ritualized versions of it (e.g. pornomancers can't make love or enjoy sex as a way to be closer to someone),


I've been rereading Last Call by Tim Powers (one of the inspirations for parts of UA, especially for avatars). Because of that, and my general preferences, I want to make rituals a little more common.

Basically, I want tilt and proxy rituals to be "postmodern" rituals that can be designed and created by anyone with the know-how (which includes any adept, any conscious avatar, and any one with any thaumaturgy training--probably represented by a move). They're probably created similar to Savvyhead Workspace, though with the list of components based more on the lists in UA. Maybe "Proxy Rituals" is a move and "Tilt Rituals" is a move... something like that.

Then there are the old rituals, from the pre-modern era of magick. these are just like the rituals in UA. Each does something specific. They are often pretty overt and powerful, but usually take a long time to cast. Also, the vast majority of them don't work anymore and no one knows how to make more like them.

These really work just like UA rituals. Each one is "equipment", not character moves. You find, steal, or buy them. Each one is a custom move. The GM can make them up as needed, plus I'll probably convert some or all of the rituals in UA and the supplements I have.

As equipment, the GM can make GM moves like taking it away, making them pay, or activating the downside of their crap (which might be that someone knows they have it and wants to take it from them).

I haven't really thought about stuff like "how many rituals can they have memorized"--maybe a number equal to their Sharp? Like I said, I haven't really thought about it much.

Avatar Magick

Ah, avatars. After reading Last Call, I love avatars. (When I first discovered UA, I was much more drawn to adepts, but I've found my tastes shifting over time--mind you, I still think adepts are cool)

I'm thinking that each avatar is a "mini-playbook" that adds on top of other playbooks. Recently, Sage LaTorra and crew out out a Dungeon World supplement with a few mini-playbooks and that's what I'm using as a rough model. There's an intre mov

You have to attune yourself to the avatar (basically go through the "becoming an avatar" steps in UA, except there's no mechanical effect yet). After that, the next time you get an advancement, you can buy the first channel of the Archetype. I'm not exactly sure what the attunement process looks like. Maybe it's something like an obligation gig? Maybe you just have to follow the taboo for a certain period (whether that's downtime between sessions or time in session)? I haven't worked on that yet.

There are probably four moves per avatar--one for each "channel" in UA. I'll probably base them pretty closely on the UA avatar channels, though a few I'll tweak either because I think I can make it fit UA better or because I personally just dislike a certain channel.

Each channel move will have prerequisites. The first prerequisite is having all the channel moves below it. I also have the idea that the taboo gets stricter at each step and so you basically have to "attune" to each step like the initial boost. (This is why low-level avatars are fairly common, even among people who don't realize they're avatars, but the higher channels are mostly made up of clued-in avatars who are consciously walking the path of one of the archetypes).

As far as the taboos go... the UA method of saying your skill drops every time you violate doesn't really fit the AW system. UA, as a percentil system, can bump skills up or down a little bit with little impact, but +/-1 is a big deal in AW... plus there isn't a separate stat for avatar magick anyway.

I'm thinking that if you violate a level of taboo, you lose all channel moves of that level and higher (so violate the taboo of the 3rd level channel and you just lose 3rd and 4th channel moves, but violate the most basic level 1 taboo and you lose all channels). This is a temporary thing. There will probably be some sort of "atonement/re-attunement" move, or maybe you jsut have to go through the "attunment" process again (no advancements required since you've already bought them).

If that's too harsh, there could be a peripheral when you violate your avatar taboo move so there are 3 tiers of consequences (strong hit, weak hit, miss) and only a miss (or a strong hit if it's roll+level of infraction, like the wounded move) do you lose complete access, Other options include things like "-1ongoing until (x)", etc. Hell, there could even be options like drawing the unwanted attention of either your archetype or opposed members of the Invisible Clergy... It's all still in the early phases at this point.

Adepts becoming Avatars

On the one hand, the Freak is cool and I know that adept/avatar combos are part of the canonical UA setting. But I've seen a number of annoying combinations that feel like players trying to tweak their characters (like Masterless Man combined with Epideromancer--which I suppose could be cool, but it was done for the mechanical combo, not the story potential). The UA setting says that to be both you basically have to be crazy, but the rules for the taboos don't always enforce that.

The point is that I want it to be posible for an adept to become an avatar, but I want it to feel like a big deal.

The first thing is that you can't start as an adept and an avatar at character creation. That's personal preference and I realize not everyone will like that.

Second, the attunement process is about focus. During that period, you can't use your charging moves and you lose all your current charges (effectively you violate your adept taboo by focusing on an archetype instead of your magick). If you get a charge, then you have to start the attunement over. (Note that I'd allow a plutomancer to receive money but choose not to get a charge, or a videomancer to wathc their show without getting a charge, etc.)  So during the attunement process, you are basically cut off from your Adept magick completely.

Maybe I'll just say that you can't use any of your current charges rather than saying they're stripped...?

Then I imagine that the successive levels of taboos for each channel get more restrictive.

The first level is largely proactive ("act like this and/or do this at least this often and you're good") and the amount of effort and concentration it takes leaves plenty of time and energy for pursuing your adept magick. The fourth level is very restrictive (basically you have to act like the archetype almost every waking moment). Being a first channel or even second channel avatar and being an adept of a sympathetic school should be fairly easy (as long as they aren't totally opposed--you couldn't be a plutomancer and the avatar of the Wealthy Philanthropist or the Trust Fund Kid, for example). but third channel and fourth channel avatars who are also adepts should be hard. The two have to be very sympathetic and closely matched and it pretty much dominates your life (though high-level avatars and adepts are both pretty obsessive already, so they're the types to try it).

Again, any thoughts, criticisms, and suggestions on what I have so far are very welcome. :)


brainstorming & development / Unknown Armies hack
« on: December 23, 2011, 02:43:06 PM »
I've been working on and off on a Wraith hack (here), but my group has been lukewarm to the idea so I've put it on the back-burner for the moment (it still interests me, but it's more work than I have time for if I'm not likely to use it). I'll likely come back to it at some point.

In the meantime, I've been reminded lately of how much I like the Unknown Armies setting. I like the UA system alright, but it's not my favorite and some of my players really hate percentile systems, so I've decided to take a shot at a UA hack for AW.

Playbooks & Character Creation

This is one of the first areas I looked at. I don't really want to make a separate playbook for each Adept School and each Avatar archetype plus enough mundane playbooks to allow that option, too. That would pretty quickly get to an insane number of playbooks.

I decided fairly early on to treat Avatars as "mini-playbooks" that have a few moves which each have prerequisites to take (and have to be taken in order). Basically, they are added on top of another playbook. I've also decided that adepts can become avatars (as per the normal rules) but I don't want any adepts to start as adept/avatar combos (it's a minor pet peeve of mine that I won't waste time explaining right now). Mundane playbooks will have enough free moves to take Avatar mini-playbooks at character creation, while adepts will have to pick them up during play if they want them.

That leaves adepts and mundanes (authentic thaumaturges are currently being treated as mundane playbooks who pick up some rituals, rather than being a separate playbook--that may change, though).

When I started looking at the Adept schools, I started seeing certain groupings of schools that had similar styles of paradoxes, taboos, and even magickal effects (btw, I'm not fond of the "k" on the end of magick in UA, but I'm using it since it is UA). I divided the core 12 schools into 5 categories. This is preliminary work to my work on streamlining the magick system without giving up the flavor or UA (i.e. I don't want to make Mage the Awakening or Ars Magica in the Occult Underground... though I like both of those games for themselves).

Then I thought about playbooks for mundanes and with a little tinkering and a few stretches (but none too much of a stretch in my opinion) I came up with five mundane playbooks that roughly matched up to the five styles of adept schools. Later on I added "Innocent" as a playbook, which doesn't have an adept parallel.

I may wind up doing something totally different, but here's the current table.

AcquisitionInvestigator (hunting down people, things, ideas, or events)Bibliomancy, Plutomancy (gaining power from their collection, but being unable to enjoy their collection normally)
ControlFighter (control through personal strength)Dipsomancy, Entropomancy, Epideromancy (gaining control by giving up control and/or strengthening themselves by weakening themselves)
CreationGenius (invention and creation)Mechanomancy, Narco-Alchemy (gonzo creations at the cost of rejecting mainstream alternatives)
HierarchyAlpha (a leader with the resources of a group)Cliomancy, Urbanomancy, Videomancy (understanding and exploiting social patterns at the cost of being tied to their obsession)
ManipulationPlayer (working their gigs, whether schemes or suckers)Personomancy, Pornomancy (exploiting human interactions at the cost of being cut off from the related authentic interactions)
VulnerabilityInnocent (when belief is power, naïveté is both power and vulnerability)--


I'm going to use the AW stats. I may rename Weird. Whether I rename it or not, it will mean something different--it's a mixture of noticing weird stuff (like synchronicity, portents, coincidences, the unnatural, etc.) and the paradoxical, gonzo thinking at the heart of UA magick, whether adepts or avatars. And like AW, there's a "downward slope" in the stats, where there are a lot of moves that shift moves towards Weird and the game strongly encourages Weird to be used--the game will have the equivalent of "barf forth apocalyptica" principle about throwing in the weird, gonzo conspiracies, mysticism, and general weirdness of the Occult Underground...

Starting Stats

There will be four choices of stat spreads (like AW) per "theme" (meaning that an Investigator and a Bibliomancer, for example, will have the same four choices).

Mundane Playbooks: Starting Moves and Crap

Each mundane playbook will have some choices of playbook-specific moves and crap. They will also all get one or more "general" moves (see below).

Also, moves that give bonuses to stats (e.g. +1hard) will either be completely restricted to mundane playbooks or at least more common for mundanes. The general idea is that adepts can be good at non-magickal stuff, but mundanes are usually a little bit better (since they're less obsessed and narrow in their world views). 'Course, they don't have magick, so...

Adept Playbooks: Moves, Magick, and Crap

Each theme of adept will have guidelines for creating a school. The twelve core schools are all examples. (The assumption is that you'll use one of the 12, but since I'm doing all the deconstruction anyway, making guidelines for making new is easy enough).

Each theme has a general style of taboo (e.g. "Control" adepts can't give up their special source of "control", whether that means never getting sober, never letting another alter their body, or never letting another take the risk instead of them). They also have guidelines for creating their Charging move (e.g. "Acquisition" adepts get charges from adding to their collection/stash--which I'm currently planning on handling similar to either AW Operator gigs or the Surplus/Want moves of AW Hardholders, Hocuses, etc.). There's more to how schools and magick will be handled, but it's still in the brainstorming phase. there are some notes below, but it's still early on in the process.

Adepts will also get a very limited number of non-magickal moves. These will probably be either from the general moves list (see below) or from the corresponding mundane playbooks list (e.g. a Dipsomancer can pick a Fighter move). Regardless, they will have less non-magickal moves than mundane playbooks.

General Moves and "Qualities"

I'm planning on creating a list of "general moves". Each playbook will have a certain number of "general moves" that they can select from this list, plus advances can be spent here.

Most (if not all) of these moves will have a "quality" attached (I'm not set on that name and will probably change it). The quality isn't a prerequisite, but if you take the move then that quality becomes attached to your character. There will be a space near to top of the sheet where all of your qualities are listed (your Obsession is likely in that box, too).

Qualities can be affiliation with a broad group (e.g., "criminal", "police", "politics", "truckers"), specific group ("TNI", "Mak Attax", etc.). They can be personality qualities ("violent", "coward", "loner", etc.). they can be interests ("occult", "cats", "conspiracies"). They can be themes/sets of imagery or concepts ("chaos theory", "tarot", "astrology", "purifying fire", etc.) Probably a lot of other stuff, too.

The qualities sometimes also narrow down the general move--e.g. there could be a general move about how you know tons of trivia and facts about a topic that adds a question to the "Read" moves (like "How does [topic] relate to this situation?) You have to tie it to a quality. So if you pick "Conspiracies", then you can be prompting the GM to make everything tied to some nut job conspiracy by asking questions about it, but you couldn't ask about occult or criminal groups or political connections.

This is still a pretty hazy idea at this point and I may cut it in favor of only having playbooks moves, but I like the idea of general moves and qualities.

At first I leaned away from general moves because it was different than how AW does it and also because it moves away from the AW idea that everything you need to make a character is right on your character sheet.

Still, I'm leaning towards doing it for two main reasons: 1) Even though it's still only half-baked, I really like the idea of characters having qualities added to them, and 2) UA is in the modern world and characters are less... focused. There's more room for cross-over and broad interests. It makes the character feel more like people (albeit, obsessed and weird people) who get involved in the Occult Underground.

Also, enough other games have lists like this that I'm not worried in general about the players having to reference something off their character sheet.

Note that some moves are restricted to playbook moves. Stat bonus moves are only in playbooks. Certain iconic/niche moves are limited to playbooks (e.g. only leaders get to start with groups like Hardholders, Choppers or Hocuses in AW).

Generally speaking, general moves are about affiliations and interests and making your character more idiosyncratic, while playbook moves are about being really good at your shtick.

More to Come

But I really appreciate any thoughts, criticisms, or suggestions on what I have so far…

Thanks for the comments, guys. I haven't really worked on this since my last post because I suddenly got busier than I expected. Plus, with the time I've had I've been reading a lot of threads about AW and about hacking AW and trying to get a better basic understanding of the blood and guts of AW so I can do a wraith hack more justice.

But I am still working on this so stay tuned... :-)


For a couple reasons (including being new to AW and also because I like the creative challenge/boost that comes from constraints), I'm planning on re-skinning AW with as little changes as possible. Whenever I can, I want to take what is already in AW and just change the names and flavor text.

Therefore, for the playbooks I'm starting by taking the standard AW playbooks (plus the Hoarder limited edition playbook) and thinking how I can re-skin them to create the kind of Wraith characters and setting that I want.

Also, while I'm using the Wraith Arcanoi as a starting point, I tore several of them apart and split up the powers among several playbooks. I also have no playbooks based around powers focused on interacting with the living or skinlands. Every playbook will have one move for dealing with the skinlands or living.

  • Angel (Angel): Death is hard. Your corpus can be torn apart, your shadow gains in strength, and (perhaps worst of all) your self-image warps and deteriorates over time. Angels can heal your corpus, soothe your shadow, and restore you to yourself, at least temporarily. Of course, they can also change other things while they're mucking around in there.
  • Masquer (Battlebabe): Any ghost can shape their own corpus to some extent, but the masquers make it an art form. Whether beautiful or grotesque, these fascinating wraiths are sought out as bodyguards, assassins, and spies.
  • Oracle (Brainer):The Tempest (and Oblivion underneath) howl at the edges of every wraith's awareness. While most wraiths occasionally open themselves to the madness in hopes of gaining secrets, the oracles turn it into a vocation. They claim to gain glimpses of the weaves of fate in the madness. They also have the ability to peek right into your soul and shadow and then... twist.
  • Hellhound (Chopper): The Necropolis is a chaotic and dangerous place, swarming with slavers, heretics, spectres, and worse. Some wraiths hammer together gangs and wander the Necropolis in strength. Whether they are slavers, renegades, a makeshift legion, or just a ragged group looking out for their own, they are a force to be reckoned with.
  • Harbinger (Driver): While the Oracles open themselves to the Tempest, only the Harbingers have the skill and balls to travel through the Tempest regularly. It's a dangerous job, and the Harbingers have a reputation as unstable at best, but they are the only ones that keep the necropolis even slightly connected and the only hope of safely reaching Stygia or the fabled Far Shores (except, of course, for the rarely seen Ferrymen).
  • Reaver (Gunlugger): Many wraiths are dangerous, able to channel passion and spite into tangible form, but the reaver are in a league of their own. A reaver has a weapon beyond the norm. Perhaps they have a rare artifact gun and an even rarer sack of bullets--each an extremely rare artifact bullet or a complete soul forged into a single bullet. Or perhaps they can channel their outrage into blasts far more devastating or wide-reaching than other wraiths. Or perhaps they can shape their corpus quickly into particularly wicked weaponry. Whatever the nature of their weapon, they are dangerous and feared for good reason.
  • Hardholder (Hardholder): The necropolis is far more empty than it seems, largely filled with the distorted reflections of things from the skinlands. When the Maelstroms rage through the necropolis or Tempest, there are few places to take shelter. Those few places are the hardholds and they are held by rugged, hard wraiths. Many wraiths congregate to the hardholds, making them tempting targets for slavers and rivals. A hardholder has to be strong enough to hold what they've claimed.
  • Fisher (Hocus): There are many stories and explanations given for why things are the way they are in the Underworld, as well as what lies beyond and how to get there. Most wraiths fear Oblivion and attempt to shore themselves up against it, clinging to what they can't let go. The Fishers offer a different, religious or quasi-religious view of things. These heretics preach about the Far Shores or Transcendence and gather followers. They are growing in number and gain significant power from their followers--both strength in numbers and strange glimpses into Oblivion itself. Are they liars, fools, or the last and best source of hope?
  • Spook (Operator): It's a dangerous world divided among dangerous and feuding factions. In such a setting there is great opportunity and great danger for those enterprising wraiths willing to do what others need done.
  • Artificer (Savvyhead): To forge souls into objects, you have to have a soulfire and tools. That soulfire has to be forged out of your own flesh. Soulsteel is the most valuable commodity in the Underworld, forming the basis of barter. The Artificers are those half-crazed soul-smiths who can shape and repair items made of soulsteel. They can also forge wraiths into soulsteel (officially destroying their consciousness in the process--at least everyone hopes that's true). In their forges and workshops, the caul between the shadowlands and the tempest is often thinner and artificers get glimpses into the Tempest, and even the Labyrinth or Oblivion itself.
  • Chanteur (Skinner): The chanteurs can use sound (usually music) to make other wraiths feel something again. It's something beautiful and moving and intense in an ugly world and the arrogant chanteur is well aware that there are wraiths who would give their unlives to experience that again.
  • Hoarder (Hoarder): Artifacts (items from the skinlands infused with so much significance or emotion that they crossed over when destroyed) are a rare and valued commodity--in some ways more sought after than soulsteel forged from wraiths. The hoarder can't ever have enough and they use their shrewd appraisal and bargaining prowess to gather everything they can into their possession. Their singular obsession also gives them a rare insight into the connections between other wraiths and their chains. They can sense and follow these connections, as well as severing, splicing, or strengthening them. They are both valued and feared by other wraiths, for a wraith's chains are quite literally at the core of their unlives.

I've started looking through the moves for the various AW playbooks. I have a couple ideas about which ones I can just re-skin or tweak a little and where I'm going to have to cut existing moves and/or add new moves, but I'm just getting started with that.

Anyway, does anyone have any thoughts so far? I realize there's nothing mechanical so far so there's not much to comment on yet. Stay tuned.

I loved Wraith: The Oblivion when it came out and it still has a special place in my gamer heart, so I was intrigued by the Necrology hack by fnord3125 (Brian Peters) and read through all of the posts yesterday. It's rekindled my interest in running a Wraith campaign and I think that Apocalypse World would work well for the type of stories I want to do with Wraith these days.

Fnord3125 mentions in his hack that he chose to focus on the interactions with the living world and so chose to cut a lot of the Wraith politics, etc. I really like the direction he's going, but it got me thinking about running a Wraith campaign in the opposite direction: Instead of focusing on Wraith as a way to tell ghost stories, I want to use the Wraith setting for a dark, fantastic quasi-"post apocalyptic" game (with your own death being the "apocalypse" and the necropoli, Shadowlands, Tempest, etc. being the fucked-up post-apoc world you're in now). Really, it's the setting (especially the Tempest, Labyrinth, Oblivion, Malfeans, etc., plus the epic scope of some of the storylines) that really grabbed me. Though (like Necrology), I'm planning on lessening or cutting the influence of Stygia and the Hierarchy because I want it to be more local and about the characters in the campaign...

In many ways I'm keeping it very close to Apocalypse World--even keeping many of the same playbooks with cosmetic re-skinning. There's also a lot of great stuff in Necrology that I plan on stealing liberally (with grateful acknowledgements to fnord3125).

I'll be adding more posts soon as I continue to work on this. I just started thinking about it yesterday and am still in early phases.

Also, I admit that I may not ever finish this. I'm in the middle of another campaign right now and haven't run the idea by my players yet. We've only played one Wraith game. It was a smaller story arc within a larger Changeling campaign. It's still talked about fondly over a decade later, but it's also made the group nervous about ever playing Wraith again since I went straight for the jugular--it was a classic "underworld descent" right before the climax of a long, epic campaign and I made it very dark and intense (even for Wraith)...

-John B.

Pages: 1 2 [3]