The Unwritten Rules of Apocalypse World

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The Unwritten Rules of Apocalypse World
« on: June 07, 2011, 04:17:29 PM »
(Hey all! This was written up as a 500 word 'zine article for Joe, but he's no longer doing a 'zine, so I think I'll throw this out on my group blog (http://geekbuffet.wordpress.com) or somesuch. But you're part of the target audience, so I ought to start here first).

Vincent Baker's Apocalypse World has captivated indie and mainstream gamers alike with, among other aspects, its clear articulation of duties between the player-character and the MC.  Players wanting to take a certain course of action must brace for the sometimes catastrophic shocks of partial success or failure on their die rolls.  The MC, who needs roll no dice, in turn must follow a prescribed diet of intervention in the player-characters' lives, advancing their Fronts and deploying specific strategies that maintain PC control over the crucial points of the narrative.  And if you somehow find portions of the game text to be unclear, hell, you can just ask Vincent about it on the Barf Forth Apocalyptica forum.

But if we consider his own "Lumpley Principle" – that role-playing games are largely determined by social ephemera of actual play – then a few etiquette suggestions may improve your game for all involved.

1. Three Moves in a Row - Don't!

Sometimes you want to pick the dice up right after you've rolled them.  Two consecutive Moves means you're following up something pressing in the fiction.  Three consecutive Moves becomes rudeness, even if you're still in the middle of the most interesting scene in the world. We know you have an investment in improving your character via your two highlighted stats this game and exploring the fiction as it happens.  So does everybody else. AW is a multi-protagonist game, and it derives power from refracting conflicts and maneuvers among the player-character group.  Let it do so.

2. Social Graces Do Trump Rules


Moves are contracts:  if you do it, do it.  Of course, you've also made a social contract with those players expending time and resources to be there.  Though AW is sometimes a brutal game, you gain a lot by keeping all lines of communication open.  Humans are fickle, and sometimes grabbing the dice at the wrong time or bringing out-of-character conflict into the game will blow someone's top.  You want players to get involved with what's happening in the scenario, rather than what's happening between the players.  Thank your host, coordinate bathroom breaks with breaks in the action, and take the gas mask off to speak while you're at it.

3. Do Push Your Boundaries A Little

AW is about sex and survival in a continuously hostile scenario.  The game will push your boundaries concerning intercourse, violence, social taboos and bodily fluids if your game is worth a damn.  Pursue the level of detail that is at least slightly disturbing (frequent utterances of "Oh God!" are to be expected) while preventing it from total fiction disruption.  "Let's not go there" is something you can say to draw the line, but only if you feel something more than a chill on your spine.

4. Don't Meta-Game the Fronts

If you've read the book, you know the MC has Fronts they're advancing.  Like cooperative board games such as Arkham Horror or Castle Ravenloft, the threats arraying around you become obvious fairly quickly.  It disenchants the fiction, however, if you as a player explicitly point it out in game.  Think of the Fronts as the Great Unmentionables: their daily troubles and their imminent crises mixed together in one shit sandwich.  But if you begin to point out the ingredients, the MC ought to advance the Front right then and there, or add some twist to it that evades your description.  You know the zombies are threatening you, but have you seen what they can do with their tongues?

I realize I'm sounding like a shotgun-toting Dear Abby here with all these bits of fluffy social advice.  That's fine, as long as they stick in the back of your mind like Brainer implants when you gear up to play.  Your fellow players will thank you while you shank their characters.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2011, 04:25:49 PM by Evan Torner »

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noofy

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Re: The Unwritten Rules of Apocalypse World
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2011, 09:31:57 AM »
Nice.
I'd add to avoid the temptation to 'guess' (as a player) the MC's Hard Move and vocalise it. Oh, he's totally separating us! Aw man, I KNEW you would exchange harm for harm on that one! No Way! I mean, I know I missed the move, but to take away my stuff?

I had one player who was also a MC and somehow got a perverse satisfaction out of it. We exchanged words post game and sorted it, but hey, it'd be a nice upfront addition in your 'contract'.

Well done, I will definitely be stealing this!

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Chris

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Re: The Unwritten Rules of Apocalypse World
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2011, 10:17:03 AM »

4. Don't Meta-Game the Fronts

If you've read the book, you know the MC has Fronts they're advancing.  Like cooperative board games such as Arkham Horror or Castle Ravenloft, the threats arraying around you become obvious fairly quickly.  It disenchants the fiction, however, if you as a player explicitly point it out in game.  Think of the Fronts as the Great Unmentionables: their daily troubles and their imminent crises mixed together in one shit sandwich.  

Eh. You've seen the Brainer's Additional Rules, in the tri-fold?

Don't say it, sure. But it's there.
A player of mine playing a gunlugger - "So now that I took infinite knives, I'm setting up a knife store." Me - "....what?" Him - "Yeah, I figure with no overhead, I'm gonna make a pretty nice profit." Me - "......"

Re: The Unwritten Rules of Apocalypse World
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2011, 01:15:16 PM »
Quote
Don't say it, sure. But it's there.

You've got the idea, Chris.

I play a Brainer (well, actually an Angel who once was).  What I cannot do is Speak the Front's Name, which is why I use the words "explicitly point out."