Essential Principles

  • 8 Replies
Essential Principles
« on: October 26, 2010, 06:26:59 PM »
Ok, so everybody loves talking about moves and gear tags and other familiarly "ruley" stuff (myself included!), but today I want to talk about MC stuff. Specifically the principles, and to a lesser degree, the moves.

I've seen a few people take a stab at changing up the principles to better suit the flavor of their hack, and after starting to do the same for one of mine, I started thinking about which principles/moves are necessary for "MCing" (i.e. GMing the way AW calls for) and which are necessary for MCing AW specifically.

I've got a few ideas, but I'd like to hear what others have to say. But to start off the conversation, I'll give an example of a move that looks like it's Apocalypse specific, but I think is actually core to the broader GMing style: "Barf Forth Apocalyptica".

Obviously for different game styles you wouldn't necessarily "barf" "Apocalyptica", but I think the idea of providing oodles of color, sometimes not fictionally significant color, is necessary to make [game world] seem real, part of the agenda for this style of GMing. What are y'all's thoughts?



  • 777
Re: Essential Principles
« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2010, 06:40:41 PM »
Hey Jeff,
The more I think about it (and I'm sure Vx thought long and hard about it), ALL the principles are core to the broader 'GMing style' embraced in Apoc World. They are simplt worded in the flavour of the genre.

I reckon Vx has distilled the protagonist, narrativist, story-now paradigm into a few pointers for the GM. Colour them as you will.

For instance, as you surmise, Barf Forth.... could be Wax Lyrical.

Same with the moves. Simply apply your chosen situation/characters/setting as colour to the principles and moves. In essence they won't change, just adapt to the milieu.

For me, I now have the principles in front of me for all my games. It's especially gelled my Burning Wheel one-on-one game and really focused my scene framing and as you astutely point out: making the game world seem real. Works a treat.

Re: Essential Principles
« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2010, 07:01:06 PM »
For Monsterhearts, I reskinned a couple, deleted a couple, and added a couple that are entirely new.

My principles list is:

Blanket the world in darkness.
Address yourself to the characters, not the players.
Make your move, but misdirect.
Make your move, but never speak its name.
Make monsters seem human, and humans seem monstrous.
Give everyone a life.
Acceptance is never absolute (or: Accept people conditionally).
Happiness always comes at someone else's expense.
Always leap to the worst possible conclusion.
Ask provocative questions and build on the answers.
Be a fan of the players’ characters.
Sometimes, disclaim decision-making.

I don't have anything more productive to add to the conversation now, but we can always pick these apart as an example of what works and what doesn't, in revising and straying from the essential principles.

Re: Essential Principles
« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2010, 07:13:08 PM »
Thanks, Joe, your Monsterhearts principles were the main ones I had in mind when thinking of hacked principles!

Noofy (I'm sorry if you've put your real name out there, I've forgotten it) I *think* that I disagree, but I'm not sure, hence my desire for discussion! Take "look through crosshairs". On the one hand, I can see the argument that gunning for "your guys" reinforces "play to find out" and otherwise not being overly antagonistic, but on the other hand, I think that in some games, you could and would want to build more lasting institutions, characters, et cetera.

That being said, I didn't feel compelled to remove (or add) many for even a very different game, so you could be right b



  • 777
Re: Essential Principles
« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2010, 10:22:58 PM »
Nah Jeff, that's O.K. Noofy is my preferred name, my given name is Nathan, but after a young friend came up with Noof instead of the rather plebian Nath, it sorta stuck.

I too had the same reservations about look through crosshairs (even whilst MCing AW). Then I took away the combat goggles and tried to think story arcs. Its a generalised tool for promoting antagonism through change.

In most physical conflict orientated roleplaying, impending death is the inherant dramatic tension no? As distilled in the notes, there is no status quo in Apoc world. This gives immediacy to all the scenes. As soon as the players focus on something you own, it explicitly becomes a target. Not necessarily a death warrant, more like a state of evolution, flux, or suitably for Apoc World: Entropy. Thus the institutions / NPCS / landscapes you (as MC) are attached to are simply in a state of flux. If I care so much about them, then great! I make a stakes question about them to be determined in play with a countdown to remind me to focus on them.

Thus as I look at the principles as they apply more generally, within a conceptual framework about what the GM's role is, I found the common ground as it applies to story-now gaming. The absence of status quo makes the characters lives by default not boring. The synergy of the principles makes playing to see what happens and developing poignant NPCs far easier than your standard GMing 101.

Personally, the one principle that has revolutionised my gameplay has been asking lots of provocative questions. Similarly my education lectures at Uni when we were enlightened to the railroading Victorian paradigm of 'guess what's in the teacher's head' that perpetuated 90% of classroom talk as done by the teacher....
Asking provocative questions has swept 'story time with the GM' into the wastes and facilitated generous MC postulated player investment & authorship.

In regards to adding or subtracting principles, maybe Vx has some light to shed on what he discarded or considered during the design process? John Harper's advice in Lady BlackBird hits rather close to the mark too.

Re: Essential Principles
« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2010, 06:24:30 PM »
I'll just note that in a lot of the Dancers at the End of Time style games (of which Nobilis is maybe the most famous) as a GM you more or less replace "Put them in the crosshairs" with "make it almost impossible for anyone to really die."

The change in tone from the flip of that switch is monstrous huge.

Re: Essential Principles
« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2010, 09:28:57 PM »
I was toying with ideas for a modern-occult style game in the back of my head briefly, which never went anywhere, but two principles that I was particularly proud of for it were

Give every NPC a secret
Make every NPC wrong about something

And the moves would include "Make an NPC act on secret information" and "Make an NPC act on false information"

Re: Essential Principles
« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2010, 11:01:54 AM »
Huh, those are neat!

I may just steal that concept with something like "Give each NPC an agenda" for a status-oriented game I'm working on. Hmmm.

Re: Essential Principles
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2010, 09:56:40 AM »
Those moves seem weak to me. They break away from what I think is the basic 'shape' of core MC moves. The core MC moves escalate the situation, and call for a response, so that its natural to follow them with "What do you do?". Obviously there are cases where these moves could do that, but they don't seem to require it in the way I feel a core MC move should.

Have you considered moving this stuff to the threat types, scarcities area? Seems like a natural place for something that is basically about the npcs, to me. Like replace fundamental scarcity with fundamental illusion (or delusion) and orient the threat types around secret truths and occult conspiracies?

Maybe 'Undermine a cherished belief or ideal' would work as a core move? It might not be strong enough either, especially if you hand wave the 'cherished' bit.

Sorry, this is a bit off topic since I'm only commenting on the moves, not the principles. The principles you introduced seem pretty awesome.  :)