Player Types (long, long long...)

  • 18 Replies
Player Types (long, long long...)
« on: December 10, 2012, 01:04:07 AM »
Vx, the old Savvyhead, worked in his space with many different purposes in mind. Each playbook Is extremely bold in its flavor, style, and effectiveness, and is quite distinct from the others. Each playbook chosen changes the game. So it is surprising that I have rarely seen any player delay in choosing their playbook. There always seems to be a uniquely obvious answer. I think this is because each playbook was designed to appeal to a certain type of player. However, the ol’ mind controlling trickster he is (actually, maybe he’s more Brainer than Savvyhead…), the game also plays with this expectation of what playing that book will be like such that, in play, the experience is slightly twisted. Let me try to show you what I mean…

The Angel is the most heroic of all playbooks by default, but nothing in Apocalypse World is pure. The Angel has a discerning eye and is likely no idealist, yet still the one who comes rushing to the rescue. If the Angel were in an old western flick, he’d be played be Clint Eastwood; helping others because it needs doing and because it’s what he does, all while squinting skeptically. A player who enjoys the moral high ground will find the Angel irresistible, but, unfortunately, being a savior in Apocalypse World is always an uphill battle.

There is a type of player to whom style trumps all else. This is the player who wants their character to succeed, sure, but if they look like a chump while succeeding, then what’s the point? They love form over function and would rather have everyone at the table think their character is a badass (or, if that’s not possible, have everyone at the table talking about their character regardless) than actually play a character whose Badass stat is factually higher than anyone else's. They are drawn to the Battlebabe (but then again, isn’t fatal attraction what the Battlebabe is all about?) A word of caution to this tale; you cannot always have your cake and eat it, too. You might be James Bond, but Apocalypse World is not a popcorn action flick. This used to be me, and I started to change shortly after the first time I played Apocalypse World years ago when it first came out (I played a Battlebabe, naturally).

I don’t think I can point to any character outside of Apocalypse World that is undeniably, exactly a Brainer. The Brainer is extremely stylized and in tune with what sets this game’s color and world apart from everything else. Being the Brainer is embracing and being empowered by the dirty, painful,  cool, hard, hot, sharp, Weird, wanting desperation of it all. Everyone who loves Apocalypse World itself as a whole should be a Brainer at least once. Every playbook seems to have a catch of “being nice and generous won’t be as easy as you think”, but the Brainer seems to turn that idea on its head. Being an emotionless, sadistic, creepy, psychic vampire won’t be as easy as you think, because in this game you are only allowed to play as human, no matter how weird (Marmots in the audience notwithstanding).

The Chopper is so damn tough and almost a stereotype of badassness. Their crew are violent, dishonest savages that are only kept in line through violence, and yet they are kindred spirits all the way, every last soul. They’re a family above all else; but not like, thanksgiving dinner, more like wolves fighting over the last scrap that they worked in perfect unison to hunt down and kill. Play the Chopper long enough, and it all turns into Bikerhearts drama. Some might play the Chopper because having a gang sounds more badass than just being a lone guy lugging a single, fuck off big gun. Others, however, will find a more ephemeral attraction to the idea of gruff, fatherly love. In sharp contrast to the Hardholder, the Chopper doesn’t give a fuck about everyone’s safety; just me and mine. Sadly, the Gang might not share those feelings for long. Or maybe they’ll open their Christmas presents early and realize, shit, you didn’t hide them because you’re an asshole, you hid them because if you see them early, it ruins everything for everybody forever.

Everything here is oppressive. Everyone is trapped by want. I think every player has (or should have) a moment in an RPG where they say “fuck this” and dive headfirst into what was never intended but suddenly makes so much sense; that moment when you choose the very dangerous third option of the sadistic choice. This is what Drivers were meant to do. By their very existence, Apocalypse World suddenly becomes a much bigger place and adds “peel out” as an option in every situation. But like the Lich’s Phylactery, the Driver’s car is everything they have, and they become shackled to it and ruled by it. Gas in the tank? Cool. Cracked windshield? It’ll keep for now. Tires? Fuck… Where the hell do you get fresh, punctured tires in the wasteland?

Again and again, I have seen new players who had never played RPGs or knew what Apocalypse World was choose the Gunlugger. I think it is right that they should do so, and I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with that choice for anyone. The Gunlugger isn’t complicated, but isn’t stupid either. The Gunlugger has more potential for survival than any other playbook; conversely, their enemies have no such potential. So, whether you want to break shit, not get broken, or just keep your options open, it works. However, every time I have seen a Gunlugger enter play, they have not remained uncomplicated for long. The old secrets start to come out, or they get pulled into other people’s struggles until it gets personal. And that is the catch here.

The Apocalyptic World is just a problem that needs solving. And solving it will take a lot of resources. In some ways, the Hardholder is a reversal of the Angel; the Hardholder does violent, messy things for a greater good (stability), as opposed to the Angel just doing what needs to be done right now to keep things going.  In the world of want, the Hardholder has the most, but also wants the most, as their little safe haven hardhold probably can’t last forever, especially with shortsighted gunluggers wanting to topple their throne all the time. I don’t think someone playing the Hardholder necessarily wants to control the game, but I think they often want to feel like their character can do something about the capital B capital P Big Problems. Unfortunately, making people safe through violence, guns, and gangs is like fighting fire with fire until the whole world burns.

The Hocus is a bit troubling. Undeniably Weird. Manipulative, controlling. Gets dander up, causes chaos, burns down the established structures, even though they were all burned down a long, long time ago already. And yet, people are still drawn to them, because they bring hope. However, hope is not their focus (that honor goes to the Touchstone, which I believe, Mr. Baker mentioned creating specifically because the Hocus did not add up to Book) . Hope causes fervor and passion, and it is the Passion and Fervor that the Hocus really lives for. I will admit, I had trouble figuring out who this type of character would appeal to, probably because I have never seen someone play it before. Sometimes it has been a second choice but never the ultimate decision. I could use some help and insight here, guys, if you have it to spare. I suspect that the Hocus would appeal to someone who wanted to be a mover and shaker in the game; someone who wanted to create in-game problems specifically in order to allow others to solve them and have those problems ultimately prove beneficial. I also suspect that some Hocus characters might want the same security through strength that is the hallmark of the Harholder, with the difference being that strength is the Hardholder’s Strength, whereas Weirdness is the Hocus’s Strength.

Many players avoid trouble when they can, because they know that the GM/MC/etc. will always have more trouble to throw at them. However, there is a rare type, whose fellows often find them quite annoying, who welcomes the chaos and adversity, because they have realized that this is where the real fun of things is and that without it, there would be no game at all. The Operator is for them. And it is a smooth operator, but not in the way you might think; when it comes to master manipulators, Skinners do it better. What Operators do is run headfirst into the fire and dare it to burn them, and they often come out unscathed, but not only, and that makes it all the better. If you watch Star Wars and think “I want to be a cocky, competent badass who does what he wants like Han Solo”, this playbook will likely disappoint you. If you watch Star Wars and think “Oh my gosh! I can’t believe that happened, even if it was his own fault! How the hell is Han gonna get out of this one (because he does always get out of it, right?)”, this playbook is a perfect fit. However, the joke here is that, in Apocalypse World, no matter how many times you pull it all out of the fire, there is no guarantee that you will always be able to. Sometimes the Operator’s Ungiven Future really is to change playbooks to “pile of smelly ashes.” This is the type of player that I have become.

When I first heard about the Savvyhead, I didn’t get it. “Hey just fixes things?” Then I looked at the moves and noticed how, more so than any other playbook, the Savvyhead has really good options for understanding and discovering things about the world around them. They do not have many ways to put this knowledge to practical use, other than to advise other characters. The MC book states how the Savvyhead is good for players who want to be cool and awesome, but be more supportive of others than movers and shakers themselves. Savvyheads are really good and fixing and building shit, but I don’t think it’s what they are really about at their core (that’s what the Angel is really about at its core). I think the Savvyhead is the playbook for the explorer who wants to search every hidden cranny of the Apocalypse World. Of course, nobody can be set apart from all this; in Apocalypse World, you are what you do, and, thus, inaction is death. Or, at the very least, inaction is a golden opportunity for a very hard move.

Being sought after. Attention isn’t enough. Attention is meaningless really, when what you really want is for people to need you around. There isn’t much about the Skinner that is practical, yet the Skinner can get everyone wanting them regardless. This says a lot about the unwritten setting of Apocalypse World; beauty is so much more beautiful when everything else is shit. There are players who go against the grain and try to be snowflakes, and, contrary to their naysays, they don’t do it to be contrary or break the game, but because they find a mutually enriching power in defying expectation. Set up pins and knock them down. This is a world of utter decay and all beauty has been lost; it is the instinct of most storytellers, to add after hearing that, “except for one last thing that is beautiful...” Unfortunately for the idealist preserver, Apocalypse World seems designed to erode beauty over time; eventually every Skinner will be killed, shattered, crippled, broken, disfigured, change playbooks, use their hair and makeup kid, have their special pet killed, lose their tools. Unless…

And in that unless is the power of the game. Play to find out what happens.

What are your thoughts? Agree, disagree? Who else might these playbooks apply to? What specific parts (mechanics, blurbs, pictures, etc) of each ‘book support or advertise certain types of play? Have there been any times you have expected a playbook to be one thing, then found it to be another in use? Do you think it is possible to create a unique cocktail of weird play experience by combining certain unexpected playbooks In a group?
Operator (Cool+2, Hard-1, Hot+1, Sharp+1, Weird=0;Easy to Trust, Eye on the Door;Gigs (Honest Work, Companionship, Surveillance)

Re: Player Types (long, long long...)
« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2012, 12:32:49 PM »
I think there may be something here.  At least it meshes with my experience with Battlebabe, Hardholder, and Savvyhead in the current game I play in. 

My Savvyhead is definitely the explorer of the group, working out what make that game's version of the psychic maelstrom tick. 

I kind of hope Hardholders are not locked into that cycle of escalating violence as that's been my least favorite aspect of the game.  Our Hardholder tends to kill anyone (no PCs yet but its been close) who even slightly deviates from his plan (which kind of kills (literally) any attempt to trade with or manipulate others).  I'm hoping to play a more open Hardholder in the next game.

Re: Player Types (long, long long...)
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2012, 02:23:59 PM »
This relates to this other discussion, right?

- Alex

Re: Player Types (long, long long...)
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2012, 02:31:00 PM »
Quite right you are, Antisinecurist! That thread was what got me thinking of all this to start with.

That does sound odd, Derendel. Do you feel as though those violent reactions added something (conflict, tension, etc) or took something away (possibly interesting situations, drama, etc) from your experience? I don't think any playbook is locked into anything, and violence isn't the Hardholder's only option for control (heck, they don't even need to seek to maintain control if they change their mind), but violence is just the thing they excel at, in the "Balls, Rolfball, hold her. If she tries to escape, have Millions riddle her" sense.
Operator (Cool+2, Hard-1, Hot+1, Sharp+1, Weird=0;Easy to Trust, Eye on the Door;Gigs (Honest Work, Companionship, Surveillance)

Re: Player Types (long, long long...)
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2012, 05:36:37 PM »
I think in my case it might be a combination of a domineering player and an MC who tends to give us problems that can (perhaps) best be solved by violence. We've had some weird threats (which is nice for my savvyhead) but little on the hot/manipulating people side (or perhaps there were but the hardholder shot them).

Antisinecurist, that thread link makes me feel better.  lumpley's description of different Hardholders is pretty good.  (I'm shooting for the Beth option).

Re: Player Types (long, long long...)
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2012, 06:11:54 PM »
I think that, as analysis of the playbooks, this is great -- lots of insights into the sort of mindset that the book encourages, or a way of approaching play for those characters that could be rewarding. As some sort of astrological-sign-type analysis of player types, I'm not really sold. You can't tell me that from now on you will only play Operators in AW, after all -- the whole system kind of falls apart as soon as someone has played the game more than once, because then their choices are informed by experimentation and exploration and usually a better understanding of what the game is like.

My play of an Angel and a Battlebabe both match up in some ways with what you describe, and in other ways not as much, but neither mindset was more true to some Ideal Self that I possess -- they were just different ways of approaching the Apocalypse, that I could get behind. That said, it's true that there are some playbooks I am much less likely to play, because their basic appeal does not interest me. (Actually I think there's only one, that being the Chopper), and I think it's cool to discuss what those basic appeals are.

For the Hocus, first off: you accurately describe why The Touchstone is horrible and should be burned in a fire. (Because among other things it confuses people about the Hocus.) For me the Hocus is for someone who is curious about the social power of belief, about the  possible deception (and especially self-deception) involved in belief, and about what it means to have power over people solely because they believe something about you that probably isn't true. The Chopper has a family built on violence, which is undeniably a real thing but also undeniably horrible and inefficient; the Hocus has a family that is built on something that is also real, but in a completely different way; something that most of us aren't really sure if it's good or bad or what. And a way that most modern gamers (at least around here) aren't able to get behind in the same way they can believe in the reality of a bullet to the head. One of the great things about the Hocus is that the playbook works regardless of whether your character believes in his or her own cult, and also regardless of whether the player believes.

Less self-consciously, the Hocus is for a player who thinks their ideas are strong enough to survive the Apocalypse: for some players those ideas will be things they themselves believe in, for other players those ideas will be powerful lies that they think will stand the test of time. But the point of the playbook is to see if it's true: are your ideas strong enough to survive even without civilization? Without all that invisible context that civilization provides, all those assumptions that we think are real but are in fact just a product of being born into wealth and plenitude. And if they are that strong, what will you have to do to make that strength real, to bring it to bear, to defend it against threats? What does it take to be a prophet, basically -- and will it matter if you're the prophet of truth or of a lie?

Re: Player Types (long, long long...)
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2012, 06:27:52 PM »

Another fun thing about this sort of list is thinking about what happens if you take the so-called Player Mindset from Playbook A and use it to play Playbook C. What happens when you play an Angel like a Battlebabe? Or a Skinner like a Brainer? Or a Driver like a Savvyhead? Will it be interesting, or just frustrating? Are there specific movies you can borrow to make it work?

And is that any different from what seems to happen to most PCs who end up switching playbooks eventually?

Re: Player Types (long, long long...)
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2012, 08:47:31 PM »
I completely agree with you, Mr. Wood! These analysis are not a very good box to live in forever. I've only been an Operator once; I've also played a Savvyhead, Battlebabe, Maestro'D, and Touchstone (I actually love the Touchstone, but I can see how some might see it as a problematic crossover between the Hardholder and Hocus; I've always preferred to think of it as what you get when the Gunlugger starts to realize how much his life sucks at the end of the day). What I am trying to get out here is not a definition of player types (I don't see a great deal of value to be gained there) but rather an understanding of the appeal of each playbook, which I believe was specifically designed; the playbooks are so hot because they advertise a play experience to come.

Your analysis of the Hocus is very illuminating, sir! Yes, I suppose it is all about ideas and belief and their place in the Apocalypse. The Hocus puts a spotlight on the fact that Hope can be dangerous sometimes.

I don't really expect that any specific experience with any playbook would fit my idea perfectly, but I do think that the playbooks were specifically meant to be bent in those directions. However, there is a great deal of freedom left in place, because these are things that are meant to be discovered, not planned out ahead of time.

That's an extremely demanding question. I think it is very possible to play an Angel like a Battlebabe, but initially it might be an uphill battle, particularly against the expectations of other players. Each playbook is in a very specific category to start off, but as soon as we get into the real meat of the situations and people start getting advances, no character remains easily categorized. However... I almost kind of feel like, even if there isn't a big difference between an Angel with Battlebabe moves and a Battlebabe with Angel moves, the name on the playbook defines the character of the character. You might have an uncommonly high Cool score, and you might have "Dangerous and Sexy", but until you change playbooks, you are an Angel at your heart, which starts to get into the issue of what that actually means. If any of that makes any sense to you, ha ha.

I am glad to have stimulated some discussion.
Operator (Cool+2, Hard-1, Hot+1, Sharp+1, Weird=0;Easy to Trust, Eye on the Door;Gigs (Honest Work, Companionship, Surveillance)



  • 1293
Re: Player Types (long, long long...)
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2012, 08:57:02 PM »
This is a really fun thread for me. Thanks for the love letter, jadanol!


Re: Player Types (long, long long...)
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2012, 11:14:54 PM »
The Hocus puts a spotlight on the fact that Hope can be dangerous sometimes.

Just to clarify, I don't think the Hocus has much to do with hope. The Touchstone, arguably, peddles hope. What the Hocus offers people is meaning. The Hocus tells people what this all means, or more accurately the possibility that it means something at all.

Re: Player Types (long, long long...)
« Reply #10 on: December 11, 2012, 12:28:13 AM »
Ah, but Mr. Wood, isn't that the rub? "The possibility that this means anything at all." That is an arguable definition of hope. Not hope for a better future necessarily, true, but hope that the seemingly meaningless suffering is actually serving a greater purpose.

Also, Mr. Baker, I'm afraid that this is not a love letter at all..

...but this is!:

Dear Lumpley;
Seems you've made a game. Seems your game has made some waves. That's something, isn't it?
On a 10+, you have surplus: your game is generally well received.
On a 7-9, your game is still generally well-received, but choose 1 Want:
-People think that they like your game for reasons that have nothing to do with how you designed it. Somehow.
-Your game ends up showing how everything you once believed is wrong.
-Your message boards are in flames.
Hugs and kissies,
Your MC
Operator (Cool+2, Hard-1, Hot+1, Sharp+1, Weird=0;Easy to Trust, Eye on the Door;Gigs (Honest Work, Companionship, Surveillance)



  • 1293
Re: Player Types (long, long long...)
« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2012, 01:24:24 PM »

Re: Player Types (long, long long...)
« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2012, 06:14:07 PM »
"The possibility that this means anything at all." That is an arguable definition of hope. Not hope for a better future necessarily, true, but hope that the seemingly meaningless suffering is actually serving a greater purpose.

An arguable definition, sure, just not a good one. Lucky for everyone, though, that's not really a very useful or interesting argument to have! I just want to avoid the word 'hope' because it tends to lead to a reductive vision of what the Hocus, or the post-apocalypse in general, can be about. There are visions of the future that are not hopeful, but are meaningful. There's nothing optimistic about the Hocus.

Re: Player Types (long, long long...)
« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2012, 07:36:46 PM »
Or is there? After all, this design presents the post-Apocalypse. Whether or not it is hopeful is discovered through play.
Operator (Cool+2, Hard-1, Hot+1, Sharp+1, Weird=0;Easy to Trust, Eye on the Door;Gigs (Honest Work, Companionship, Surveillance)

Re: Player Types (long, long long...)
« Reply #14 on: December 12, 2012, 06:18:48 PM »

Yes, sure -- what I meant was there is nothing particularly optimistic about the Hocus.