Playbook focus: The Operator

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Arvid

  • 262
Playbook focus: The Operator
« on: August 28, 2013, 07:04:36 PM »

In Apocalypse World, here’s what you’ve got, right? You’ve got Dremmer
and Balls on one side, warlord slaver and his skinny fucking enforcer,
raiding from their stronghold of concrete and iron spikes. On the other side
you’ve got the barge people, living their short disease-crippled lives up and
down the dead poisoned river. Further along and you’ve got Lighthouse, a
men-and-women hunger cult gone wrong barricaded in on the edge of the
breeding pit burn flats.

You, you just want to make your way and have some freedom — but this is
what you’ve got to work with. Not fucking rosy.


The Operator is a dealer, schemer, fixer, boss, worker, operator. She juggles gigs for jingle and surrounds herself with a crew or a net of contacts for this purpose. The Operator is not a strong in concept, moves or gear as other playbooks, but is a master in amassing barter, or at least will be if you're willing to work the game a little. Her primary stat is Cool which helps her deal with sticky situations. These situations tends to come up.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPRlHwwVIug
Mal from Firefly

My take on it
For the longest time, I did not get the Operator. Other playbooks jump at me with their style, their moves and their crap, but what makes the Operator awesome and compelling is not at all as clear. When examining the playbook for this series of focus articles, I looked to the space on the back flap, you know, beneath the fluff text where peripheral rules relevant to the playbook is printed. Anyway, the Operator has the barter peripheral rules printed in this space, and that was when I grokked it.

The Operator is all about the barter. To give the Operator style and substance, you need to give barter style and weight. Let me go on a tangent about that:

Quote
The scarcity of Apocalypse World
Make Apocalypse World an uncomfortable place, and scarcity a real thing in the post-apocalypse. Ask the characters what their greatest scarcities are (for instance food, clean water, ammo, gas, protection from people trying to rob them of above mentioned) and make moves on that. Frame scenes like this one, when the fiction calls for it: “You wake up and your stomach hurts for not having eaten for two days. What do you do?”

With 0-barter, you’ll starve within the month. 1-barter, you’ll live, maybe not comfortably though and with no margin of security. Maintenance, repairs, ammo or gas? That’s going to need barter too. Unexpected shit always come up. I don’t think anyone of us reading these articles have been in real  danger of starvation, but I’m sure most of us has been at a point in our lives with no real financial buffert or margin, where dough is just enough to pull through the month, but all of a sudden something needs replacing or repairing or medical attention, and that is just the shit. So yeah, also have things go wrong for the characters, have things get stolen or need repair, have shit happen to people they care about and they could really use a barter worth of clean water right fucking now. Remember the move “Make them pay”! Make it so that when the characters have 1 or 2-barter to spare, they feel really good about it.

Also, if you turn barter into essential for survival, you also turn barter into power, power to get people to do things for you. Offer people barter, and you offer them life. People will dirty or dangerous things for survival, or just straight up desire you and kiss up to you if you’re sitting on a pile of jingle.

In short, make the players desire barter for their survival and safety, for the survival and safety of their loved ones, and for the luxe and envy and desire that will come their way when they have mucho jingle.

What emerges from this is an Operator who quickly realises that cash is king, and who quickly gets a higher juggling and start juggling risky but well-paying jobs to get to where they want. Given that is their reaction, that says a lot about the Operator as a person: Determined for barter, she is a person who is ready to get herself into complicated situations and juggle them by the handfuls. But for the Operator to really shine, I think you have to be generous with her.

Moonlighting is a really cool move in that it instantly sets you up with interesting situations and lets you step in when the interesting stuff happens - Not the preparation, but the climax or the aftermath. I recommend being generous with what you can do with Moonlighting. When the Operator starts off she works maybe a 1-barter or 2-barter gig plus one operation gig, and while I presume her crew/contacts gets the majority of their pay from the client, they also want a piece of the Operator's personal barter. (Check the Operator's paragraph on what 1-barter covers). You could also be flexible with what Moonlighting lets you do, let them choose ad hoc gigs with effects rather than barter payoff, such as “get intel on Dremmers stronghold (you get information / your crew is caught in the act)” or “find and waste Ramen (you corner Ramen / Ramen corners you)" as long as they pay the barter their crew or contacts is asking for for working on it. That's a cool feature that makes the Operator capable of handling any situation given help from their crew and contacts and time to plan and prepare, which I feel is totally in line with the playbook concept. And remember, Moonlighting is more effective the more downtime there is in the game. For Moonlighting to really work, the game needs to take place over months rather than days, fictionally, and you need to be generous on how often there's a little downtime so the Operator can make those rolls - You could let the crew do most of the work off-camera if the Operator really can't get her hands free.

And I’d recommend being generous with what the crew and contacts are good for. The rules says you should describe everyone individually with one line of description, and also consider them threats. I say go one step longer: The crew and contacts are the Operator’s crap, so I think it should carry the same weight in the story as the Savvyhead’s workspace or the Hardholder’s hold. Make the crew/contacts real, proactive people, not as interesting and effective as player characters, but just one notch below! Have them save the Operators poor ass sometimes. Have them go behind her back sometimes. Have them approach the Operator with opportunities, things like ”I found this goon in our camp, staking us out for the Hardholder no doubt. What do you want me to do with him?” or “Hey, I heard that weirdo Lucas is boarded up in the tower ruin with a fuckton of barter. You want to go take it? If you want to, I could make a map out of the other ruin and it should map out his place as well”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKp8mYzsQzo
I love it when a plan comes together

And be generous with what things she can get when she go(es) into a holding's bustling market[/i] and when she make(s) known that you (she) want(s) a thing and drop jingle to speed it on it's way[/i]. Maybe she can get intel or new contacts as well as things, such as someone can hook her up with the right guy or a map to where the high tech device can be find. Make it clear that with enough barter you can get anything available in this world, kind of how the Savvyhead can get anything they want through the workspace, given enough time. What about when you give 1-barter to someone, but with strings attached? Ehh, fuck it. It doesn't make sense to me, seeing as the barter should be leverage in a manipulation roll, not its automatic success? I don't know, seems off to me.

Anyway, if you’re generous with the Operator, she should be start getting pretty rich once she has picked up another gig and +1juggling or two. This should attracting interest from greedy or hungry PCs and NPCs alike. This’ll generate tension to play off.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUhBk2-Rj-w

Perhaps the Hardholder becomes interested in shutting down the other power factor in the area. Perhas the Operator hires the Gunlugger for around the clock protection and guard duty. Perhaps she starts dropping jingle over the Skinner in return for pleasure. Perhaps she starts paying the Savvyhead to construct that thing she needs to…

To what? We’ve established that the Operator shines when she’s ruthlessly pursuing barter, but what does she want the barter for, beyond mere survival? The playbook doesn’t offer any answers, but I think you need an answer to this question if the Operator’s struggle is to be interesting and compelling. What is her grand plan? Why should we care? Who is she, and why is she what she is? I know, right? I believe you really need to provide these answers so you can play your character, obviously, and so your Moonlighting has some actual stakes in the world, because the playbook doesn't really help you much figuring out who the Operator is. And the obligation gig is just an interesting problem, it's not enough to build character motivation on.

Or, in a rough enough apocalypse, perhaps survival is enough. The fluff text seem to imply it, but every other playbook is about something more than survival, they’re about also being awesome in some way. The Operator should be the same. (The Hardholder and the Maestro ‘D doesn’t even have to worry about their day to day needs as long as their hold or establishment is in working condition)

Why the Operator is the best playbook to play:
There is something really appealling of gritting your teeth and pulling off that thing you really want. Moonlighting will make sure you're never bored. It's cool to sprinkle cash around you. And it's great fun to be a leader and take care of all your crew and contacts.

And for a final argument, check out what +2cool looks like:
[video:youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWmRTjLRMfU[/video]
(How come all the Operator clips I can find are portraying chauvinistic men?)

What it brings to the world of the apocalypse:
The Operator is in interesting nexus for the a campaign as every other character could potentially deal with or work with the Operator, or be the target of the Operator's gig. The Operator can introduce an interesting dynamic of fiscal power and greed if she is succesful in earning barter, for instance, if the Gunlugger is out of barter, she can always go ask the Operator for a job which brings characters into interaction. Same with NPCs, of course. Moonlighting is also a fun move to get you framing scenes and bringing dynamic changes to the post-apocalyptic world.

Fundamental scarcities of the playbook:
Okay, so this entire focus was a guide on how to make the Operator an interesting playbook. To summarize:
  • Find out what the Operator wants
  • Make scarcity a real thing
  • Make barter into power
  • Make the crew and contacts interesting, capable and proactive
  • Be generous with Moonlighting
  • Have the game play out over months rather than days
  • Be generous with the barter peripheral moves. Except give 1-barter to someone, but with strings attached, I don't use it.
That's a lot of instructions, and in a way I feel the Operator is a flawed playbook for not providing the solutions itself. On the other hand, I think your game will improve if you follow these suggestions.

Oh, and make sure you don't get bogged down in the details of Moonlighting if you roll it most every session, although I recommend asking what deal they're brokering or what person they're murdering before rolling, to set up the stakes.

Moves and crap analysis:
Eye on the door is a great move for someone who keeps finding themselves in sticky situations, which Moonlighting tend to bring. Easy to trust and Reputation can make you quite competent at dealing socially with others, even though you're not a primarily Hot playbook.

As for other playbook moves, the Battlebabe has some great moves for you: Merciless is good as you are only armed with a modest weapon from the start, and things will get violent sooner or later. Ice cold is great for aggroing yourself out of a difficult situation or get the results you need from someone. Perfect instincts should also fit your needs, and your Sharp is probably +1.

Just as I recommend the Driver to get Moonlighting, an Operator with a car and A no shit driver is a fun combo. The Driver's Weather eye is good too, for opening your brain.

Just about all the Hoarder moves are good deals if you want to play up the greed aspect. Except Greed, paradoxically.

The Maestro 'D's Everybody eats, even that guy is good, but Fingers in every pie is something you can already do, by dropping jingle to get a thing you want.

Inspiring from the Quarantine is a good choice if you want to tie player characters to you as crew members.

Relationships and dynamics:
The Operator makes a good nexus for a game, seeing as potentially any other character could be an employer, a crew member, an adversary or a freelancer for the Operator. I'd start off by asking the other players what kind of talents they offer up to the Operator for barter/what kind of jobs they rely on the Operator for.

Other things to ask the Operator to get her going: What do you hope to achieve within one year? What would you do if you had a windfall of 10-barter, right now? What places you one notch above the rest? What is the best/worst thing that happened to you today? Who in your crew/contacts do you trust the most/the least? Fox left you a gift today, why?

The Hocus and the Hardholder has a wide influence in the world through their followers. (and to a lesser extent, the Maestro 'D and the Chopper) This can make interesting ambivalent relationships, if you have them rely on the Operator for something, but also put some of the Operator gigs at cross-purposes with them.

The Skinner and the Maestro 'D knows people, use that. When the Operator is trying to get to someone, they might want to go through these characters.

The Touchstone's strong moral code can put them indiffirent to some of the Operator's gigs, and firmly opposed to others. What happens when an unstoppable force meets an unmovable object?

The Chopper makes for an interesting and potentially unreliable partner, in that they and their gang are very specialised att violence, raiding and riding, making them both thankful employers for things they need done but don't know how to do, and interesting goons to send out to get the job done. When the Chopper gets into his head to extract protection money from all the Operator's venues, that'll be fun too.
 
The Brainer and the Hoarder both have unique resources, and are also potentially outcast weirdos, making them good as both employees and employers for shit they can't handle. They could also make great adversaries, driven by weird motivations to control people and collect things that the Operator is trying to help or deliver. A hell-bent proactive Brainer is both a great villain and employer!

The Savvyhead always needs stuff delivered to him, prepared for work, guarded from thieves. Consider making the Savvyhead a part of the crew! The Savvyhead benefits from being placed in a context, and as a part of the Operators crew could be a lot more dynamic and balanced power-wise than being the bitch of the local Hardholder. Same deal with the Driver, a specialised character that benefits from being part of a crew.

The Driver or a nomadic Faceless could make a nice antagonist that keeps interfering with the Operators Moonlighting for their own random motivations.

The Battlebabe and The Gunlugger are good, competent additions to a team, but if you play up the scarcity, these might also become threats, trying to rob your barter from you.


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« Last Edit: August 29, 2013, 04:30:40 AM by Arvid »

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Lukas

  • 53
Re: Playbook focus: The Operator
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2013, 07:41:46 PM »
I think the basic paradox is this: the more useful Barter gets, the less apocalyptic does the apocalypse become. If people are desperate and poor, they will likely need every piece of Barter they can get just to scrape by. If they're willing to trade, to pay people for doing stuff for them, it means that there's some sort of surplus that leaves room for a functioning economy with some amount of specialisation. Whenever you as an MC decides that an NPC would be willing to part with 1-barter in order to buy a gun or some other piece of equipment, you've decided that there exists a person materially secure enough to forego enough resources to biy food for a month in order to get some other thing. That's a powerful statement about how the world works! Just like the Maestro D' and the Skinner, the Operator makes the setting a bit more civilised -- in order for these playbooks to work, people have to be willing to pay for stuff other than that which is essential for their survival.

Re: Playbook focus: The Operator
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2013, 09:08:01 AM »

This is really a case where looking to the source material can help enormously when it comes to understanding the playbook. Once you realize Mal is an archetypal Operator, and think about Firefly's various jobs in terms of barter, the possibilities and style become a lot clearer.

But I do think this writeup sells it the wrong way; yes, the Operator is all about the barter. But never, ever, ever does the Operator actually hold on to that barter. The Operator is constantly broke, constantly looking for that next gig. The faster the barter comes in, the faster it goes out.

And why is that? It's because of what everyone has said: in AW, barter isn't an abstract currency, it's things people need. Food, medicine, clothes. And there's always somebody who needs it more than the Operator. There's always somewhere it could be doing more than it would do for the Operator. The Operator understands the power of barter too well to sit around hoarding it.

That's also why Obligations are really the key to the playbook -- not just because of their fictional effect, but because of what they imply about the Operator themselves. This is a person who has obligations. Does the Gunlugger have fucking obligations? Does the Maestro 'D have to worry about upkeeping debt? Does the Battlebabe feel obliged to account for the happiness of every sad sack he sleeps with? No. Only the Operator gives a shit about any of that, because the Operator is invested. Invested in a working society, an actual community where people pay bills and keep their word and aren't non-stop dicks to each other. Because that's the only thing that lets the Operator operate: some remnant of civilization, some people who are willing to make an honest deal.



Re: Playbook focus: The Operator
« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2013, 09:16:35 AM »
I think the basic paradox is this: the more useful Barter gets, the less apocalyptic does the apocalypse become. If people are desperate and poor, they will likely need every piece of Barter they can get just to scrape by. If they're willing to trade, to pay people for doing stuff for them, it means that there's some sort of surplus that leaves room for a functioning economy with some amount of specialisation.

You have this backwards. You have just described why barter is useful: because people need it. Capital-N need. Just because Barter is an abstracted mechanic doesn't mean that Barter is currency. It's still goods and services and shit that people need, straight up. Food is barter, clothes are barter, shoes are barter.

And similarly, what sort of services is someone going to trade their only pair of shoes for? Something they NEED somebody to do. Something they can't do themselves. Sure, some of the Operator gigs might not qualify, but lots of them do. You think somebody is paying 3 barter worth of food and medicine to kill a guy they don't NEED you to kill? To deliver something they don't NEED delivered? The Operator may be specialized, but he's not doing work that only maybe sort-of matters. These jobs are important, and their consequences are important. That's what makes the playbook work.



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Arvid

  • 262
Re: Playbook focus: The Operator
« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2013, 03:38:42 PM »
That's a good point, Daniel! I'd like to reiterate that I had a hard time grokking the Operator, and these comments help me understand the further nuances of it.

While I don't think the Operator is predisposed to care for those around here, there is absolutely a good possibility to go that way with her. The obligation gigs could just as well reflect the fact that she gets caught up in things and live a stressful life, I think. Still they are, just as you say, obligations.

I'd make barter the abiity to "get things done" the central tenent when MC'ing an Operator, and then leave it up to the player what exactly to do with this power, whether to help or conquer. One thing that's nice about Apocalypse World is the different scales that characters operate on, an Operator that is played for drama could have a very different but equally fulfilling story arc as the Hardholders story of conquest and grand decisions, if the group payed proper attention and investment in the Operator's relationshps relationship, even if the Operator can't compare to the Hardholder in story/mechanical effectiviness.

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Arvid

  • 262
Re: Playbook focus: The Operator
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2013, 03:47:38 PM »
I think I'm kind of in the middle between Lukas' and Daniel's position here. While I do believe that the deal-making Operator and Maestro 'D does bring a kind of higher economy to Aocalypse World, one where barter flows a little more freely...

But at the same time I'm kind of at the assumption that no matter how destitute and decayed, any place with a reasonable number of inhabitants will hold at least a few individuals who are wiling and able to pay for special services, if not by virtue of being wealthy, by virtue of desperation.

Re: Playbook focus: The Operator
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2013, 08:47:49 AM »
While I don't think the Operator is predisposed to care for those around here, there is absolutely a good possibility to go that way with her. The obligation gigs could just as well reflect the fact that she gets caught up in things and live a stressful life, I think. Still they are, just as you say, obligations.

Sure, fair enough. But consider that one of the archetypical Operators is Mal from Firefly and I think you get a sense of where the playbook can go.

(Cowboy Bebop is another Operator crew, though none of its members are actually Operators.)

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DannyK

  • 157
Re: Playbook focus: The Operator
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2013, 01:54:54 PM »
My actual experience with the Operator is limited, but I don't see this as the trading, get-rich-quick Playbook. Like, at all. I actually have a lot to say about the Operator, in part because economics is a hobby and I know just enough to have opinions without actually being correct.

I see the Operator as the premier networker in Apocalypse World.  He's the guy who knows a guy.  In the broken-down market economy of AW that seems to be the default, he works more like a fence than a regular merchant.  If you just need leather chaps and seaweed crackers, you can just go into the marketplace with some jingle and buy them.  If you need something specialized, like forbidden tech/drugs/weapons/vices, or a special service, then the Operator's your friend.  Barter is just the currency that keeps things going, but especially if you've got an Operator in the game, you should probably work out some actual barter system that's appropriate for the setting with a cheet sheet that tells you roughly how many widgets things are worth, so that you can put some teeth into negotiations.  But I really don't think you should make barter the focus of the Operator's game.  He is all about the connections, the network of mutual obligations and benefits, keeping people happy and keeping his good name.  That's why his sex move is all about obligation, for the Operator everything is a gig and when he takes it on, he has to deliver.

His whole gig is keeping a network of reciprocation going across the fractured landscape and divergent cultures of AW.  Like it says in the playbook's flavor text, the Operator is guy who can look around him, find an insane doomsday cult on one side, and a paranoid dictator on the other, and figure out what each one needs that the other can provide.  The operator might not own a warehouse full of shit people want, but he's really good at figuring out who might want the shit which is in abundance in town X and how to make a profit arranging trade.  That abundance could be lots of rat meat, or a really skilled Brainer who needs work, or the service of a motorcycle gang to burn out some bandits in the hills that are messing up traffic. 

This seems like an impossible job, but you have to assume that the Operator is really, really good at what he does, maybe even supernaturally good, like how the Skinner can make a roomful of people stop shooting at each other just by taking off his/her sweater.  They are just awesome natural salemen and negotiators who can walk up to some paranoid bastard's fortified enclave with a business proposal and end up getting invited to lunch instead of getting shot right there on the driveway.  If you don't have that understanding of the Operator, I think the playbook won't work as well because the player will be afraid to put his guy in dicey situations. 

The Operator can be a good asset for the MC, I think, because, by their very nature, they have lots of reasons to go out and meet people and travel to interesting locations instead of holing up behind their walls like the Savvyhead or Hardholder.  The Operator also provides lots of hooks to other PC's, since it's one of the Playbooks that gives structure and makes it easy to define party relationships.  A Driver, Gunlugger and Operator would make an awesome trio for a road-based game, I think, though I haven't tried it.  You can also split the Operator against the other PC's by having him/her do business with the enemy or rivals of the PC's.  There's plenty of ways that the Operator's gigs can cut against the interests of other PC's or their NPC friends.  And heck, all it takes is one spoiled NPC boyfriend/girlfriend demanding discounts from the Operator on the stuff they want because  of their PC partner, and you've got a hassle for the characters to deal with.  Too easy. 

"What do you mean, you just sold Dremmer a rocket launcher?  He's a maniac!"

Finally, the Operator is one of the few characters who's got a strong interest in keeping the peace in Apocalypse World.  He/she doesn't want war, usually, because it's bad for business -- unless it's war to force open new markets. 

Fictional Operators that might be inspiring:
The Finn, from William Gibson's cyberpunk fiction
Yuri Orlov, the Nicholas Cage character from Lord of War (a good counterexample to what I was saying above about Operators being peace-loving)
Fagin: he's an Operator, and the kids are his crew, and you love him somehow even though he's a complete bastard. 
Henry Hill from Goodfellas.  Yes, he also pulled heists and did lots of other stuff, but all through the movie you see him schmoozing people, making deals, and above all, handling situations when things go wrong and business is about to suffer for it. If you're MC'ing a game with an Operator in it, watch Goodfellas again and take notes on how shit just goes haywire for the poor guy, mostly because of stuff his boss and crew do.
Mal from Firefly, well, yeah... sort of.  If we'd had the full five seasons, we'd have a lot more to point to with Mal doing business with people and taking care of things that go wrong.  As it is, we do seem him 
taking the Firefly all over the 'Verse to trade cargos and haggling with Badger and Niska, both of whom could be Operators in their own right.  This also illustrates how the Operator's gigs can help structure the relationship of the PC's and drive the story, even if the other PC's don't all work for the Operator the way they do in Firefly. 

tl;dr: Make the Operator all about mutually beneficial relationships and obligations, not just barter.  And keep the Operator's life interesting by making his business partners and crew demanding and occasionally unreliable, but don't make the world so hostile to him that he can't do business. In most holdings, there's going to be people who need him, and won't want to see him get shot.  He's more like to acquire new obligations in a sticky spot then get shot or tortured. 

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Arvid

  • 262
Re: Playbook focus: The Operator
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2013, 04:19:55 PM »
My actual experience with the Operator is limited, but I don't see this as the trading, get-rich-quick Playbook. Like, at all. I actually have a lot to say about the Operator, in part because economics is a hobby and I know just enough to have opinions without actually being correct.

I see the Operator as the premier networker in Apocalypse World.  He's the guy who knows a guy.  In the broken-down market economy of AW that seems to be the default, he works more like a fence than a regular merchant.  If you just need leather chaps and seaweed crackers, you can just go into the marketplace with some jingle and buy them.  If you need something specialized, like forbidden tech/drugs/weapons/vices, or a special service, then the Operator's your friend.  Barter is just the currency that keeps things going, but especially if you've got an Operator in the game, you should probably work out some actual barter system that's appropriate for the setting with a cheet sheet that tells you roughly how many widgets things are worth, so that you can put some teeth into negotiations.  But I really don't think you should make barter the focus of the Operator's game.  He is all about the connections, the network of mutual obligations and benefits, keeping people happy and keeping his good name.  That's why his sex move is all about obligation, for the Operator everything is a gig and when he takes it on, he has to deliver.

His whole gig is keeping a network of reciprocation going across the fractured landscape and divergent cultures of AW.  Like it says in the playbook's flavor text, the Operator is guy who can look around him, find an insane doomsday cult on one side, and a paranoid dictator on the other, and figure out what each one needs that the other can provide.  The operator might not own a warehouse full of shit people want, but he's really good at figuring out who might want the shit which is in abundance in town X and how to make a profit arranging trade.  That abundance could be lots of rat meat, or a really skilled Brainer who needs work, or the service of a motorcycle gang to burn out some bandits in the hills that are messing up traffic. 

This seems like an impossible job, but you have to assume that the Operator is really, really good at what he does, maybe even supernaturally good, like how the Skinner can make a roomful of people stop shooting at each other just by taking off his/her sweater.  They are just awesome natural salemen and negotiators who can walk up to some paranoid bastard's fortified enclave with a business proposal and end up getting invited to lunch instead of getting shot right there on the driveway.  If you don't have that understanding of the Operator, I think the playbook won't work as well because the player will be afraid to put his guy in dicey situations. 

The Operator can be a good asset for the MC, I think, because, by their very nature, they have lots of reasons to go out and meet people and travel to interesting locations instead of holing up behind their walls like the Savvyhead or Hardholder.  The Operator also provides lots of hooks to other PC's, since it's one of the Playbooks that gives structure and makes it easy to define party relationships.  A Driver, Gunlugger and Operator would make an awesome trio for a road-based game, I think, though I haven't tried it.  You can also split the Operator against the other PC's by having him/her do business with the enemy or rivals of the PC's.  There's plenty of ways that the Operator's gigs can cut against the interests of other PC's or their NPC friends.  And heck, all it takes is one spoiled NPC boyfriend/girlfriend demanding discounts from the Operator on the stuff they want because  of their PC partner, and you've got a hassle for the characters to deal with.  Too easy. 

"What do you mean, you just sold Dremmer a rocket launcher?  He's a maniac!"

Finally, the Operator is one of the few characters who's got a strong interest in keeping the peace in Apocalypse World.  He/she doesn't want war, usually, because it's bad for business -- unless it's war to force open new markets. 

Fictional Operators that might be inspiring:
The Finn, from William Gibson's cyberpunk fiction
Yuri Orlov, the Nicholas Cage character from Lord of War (a good counterexample to what I was saying above about Operators being peace-loving)
Fagin: he's an Operator, and the kids are his crew, and you love him somehow even though he's a complete bastard. 
Henry Hill from Goodfellas.  Yes, he also pulled heists and did lots of other stuff, but all through the movie you see him schmoozing people, making deals, and above all, handling situations when things go wrong and business is about to suffer for it. If you're MC'ing a game with an Operator in it, watch Goodfellas again and take notes on how shit just goes haywire for the poor guy, mostly because of stuff his boss and crew do.
Mal from Firefly, well, yeah... sort of.  If we'd had the full five seasons, we'd have a lot more to point to with Mal doing business with people and taking care of things that go wrong.  As it is, we do seem him 
taking the Firefly all over the 'Verse to trade cargos and haggling with Badger and Niska, both of whom could be Operators in their own right.  This also illustrates how the Operator's gigs can help structure the relationship of the PC's and drive the story, even if the other PC's don't all work for the Operator the way they do in Firefly. 

tl;dr: Make the Operator all about mutually beneficial relationships and obligations, not just barter.  And keep the Operator's life interesting by making his business partners and crew demanding and occasionally unreliable, but don't make the world so hostile to him that he can't do business. In most holdings, there's going to be people who need him, and won't want to see him get shot.  He's more like to acquire new obligations in a sticky spot then get shot or tortured.

This is gold! My mantra as a roleplayer and improv player is "make it about the relationship", but I didn't connect it in my flailing attempts to nail the Operator down.

The part about making the Operator a contact or friend with everyone, on both sides of a huge hostility or schism (both the hunger cult and the dictator) is brilliant, will definitely bring that with me if there's an Operator in our next game.

Re: Playbook focus: The Operator
« Reply #9 on: September 06, 2013, 06:53:57 AM »

(Cowboy Bebop is another Operator crew, though none of its members are actually Operators.)

Another Operator crew is the crew in the Black lagoon with Revy as the Gunlugger, Benny as the Savvyhead, Dutch as the possible Operator. Though what Rock is I'm not sure. Possible an Quarantine, sort of.

Re: Playbook focus: The Operator
« Reply #10 on: September 06, 2013, 09:55:38 PM »
While I do agree "make it about the relationship", I'm not sure I buy DannyK's idea of the Operator as Fixer. Your archetypal Fixers, Finn, Niska, Badger, they sit around and send their crews out to do the work, or they hire someone else to. The Operator has a high Cool just like the Battlebabe. What they're good at is running straight into trouble and getting out alive. Their gigs aren't based on sending their crew. If an Operator is Doing Murders, the crew might help but its going to be the Operator more often than not who pulls the trigger. Yes The Operator is mercenery and may work both sides of a conflict but like Mal or pre-Armitage Case he's out there in the middle of things hustling to keep his head above water. Hiding out in your office and letting people come to you is not Operating.

Re: Playbook focus: The Operator
« Reply #11 on: September 07, 2013, 08:54:28 PM »
What they're good at is running straight into trouble and getting out alive. Their gigs aren't based on sending their crew. If an Operator is Doing Murders, the crew might help but its going to be the Operator more often than not who pulls the trigger.

Exactly. The sort of activity DannyK describes is only one of the Operator's many possible gigs. Thinking of the Operator as this supernaturally-talented merchant-trader-whatever is, I think, following one direction a little too far, when they could just as likely be a scavenger-of-materials or a security expert or a straight-up murderer.

The main thing that the Operator has, besides her (as mentioned) ability to get out of a tough spot, is hustle. She's the one who is either cool enough or just desperate enough (or fatalistically resigned enough, or idealistic enough, etc.) to go out there and try and make deals happen, even after the goddamn apocalypse. Even if it's just to pay the bills, the Operator isn't the sort of person to just find a niche and settle down and do that one thing until she dies; the Operator always sees more opportunities, better ways to get it done, and ideally a better life for herself and her crew. And if that means one day she's selling trained attack dogs to cannibal gang leaders and the next day making sure Joe's Girl gets good and killed, then so be it. Specialization is for the golden age.


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DannyK

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Re: Playbook focus: The Operator
« Reply #12 on: September 10, 2013, 04:47:29 PM »
Exactly. The sort of activity DannyK describes is only one of the Operator's many possible gigs. Thinking of the Operator as this supernaturally-talented merchant-trader-whatever is, I think, following one direction a little too far, when they could just as likely be a scavenger-of-materials or a security expert or a straight-up murderer.

I don't see that much difference between what you said and what I said, though I did exaggerate a bit.  The Operator does a lot of odd jobs that put them in crazy situations.  Every gig provides the perfect excuse for framing the character into a tough spot when their contact or crew member flakes out or they just have bad luck. I really want to run an AW game with an Operator and their crew now!

Re: Playbook focus: The Operator
« Reply #13 on: September 29, 2013, 06:08:18 PM »
While the Operator does benefit from a game that stresses Barter and Scarcity, that's not their core. The Operator has an inherent, implied Goal (basically “Maintain personal agency and acquire resources”) but is given tools that make it nearly impossible for them to hold on to anything they gain. Due to their Obligations, the benefits they gain from high stakes betting (which is how I see Moonlighting), and the fact that their Crew/Contacts are externalized characters who can act independently, Operators can easily lose whatever they gain and frequently find themselves in complicated situations. Basically, everything goes to hell whenever the Operator is around. And that's the point! The Operator specializes in dealing with unexpected, complicated, tense situations (“Acting Under Fire” one might say), and I'd say each of the Operator moves relate to getting into or out of trouble (“Easy to Trust” you talk your way out, “Reputation” someone knows you and will react differently, perhaps less straightforwardly, than if they didn't, “Opportunist” invites chaos in the form of MC moves when you help others to Miss, “Eye on the Door” is literally getting out of a tense situation). The Operator is the best playbook to play, because it is never boring, and you get the joy of being most competent when others are at their worst.

(By the way, thanks so much for writing these! They're totally awesome, and you completely opened up the Hocus, Gunlugger, and Battlebabe for me).
Operator (Cool+2, Hard-1, Hot+1, Sharp+1, Weird=0;Easy to Trust, Eye on the Door;Gigs (Honest Work, Companionship, Surveillance)

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Arvid

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Re: Playbook focus: The Operator
« Reply #14 on: October 01, 2013, 04:27:31 PM »
While the Operator does benefit from a game that stresses Barter and Scarcity, that's not their core. The Operator has an inherent, implied Goal (basically “Maintain personal agency and acquire resources”) but is given tools that make it nearly impossible for them to hold on to anything they gain. Due to their Obligations, the benefits they gain from high stakes betting (which is how I see Moonlighting), and the fact that their Crew/Contacts are externalized characters who can act independently, Operators can easily lose whatever they gain and frequently find themselves in complicated situations. Basically, everything goes to hell whenever the Operator is around. And that's the point! The Operator specializes in dealing with unexpected, complicated, tense situations (“Acting Under Fire” one might say), and I'd say each of the Operator moves relate to getting into or out of trouble (“Easy to Trust” you talk your way out, “Reputation” someone knows you and will react differently, perhaps less straightforwardly, than if they didn't, “Opportunist” invites chaos in the form of MC moves when you help others to Miss, “Eye on the Door” is literally getting out of a tense situation). The Operator is the best playbook to play, because it is never boring, and you get the joy of being most competent when others are at their worst.

At the heart of it, I agree with you that this is really the gist of the attraction of the Operator, but I also felt obligated to sell the Operator as powerful when writing this article up, you know? It doesn't feel fair to have a playbook that gets to struggle to survive, when other playbooks are struggling to create or conquer, so to speak.

But yes, I agree.

(By the way, thanks so much for writing these! They're totally awesome, and you completely opened up the Hocus, Gunlugger, and Battlebabe for me).

Thank you so much! This is what makes it worth it. And although I'm struggling a bit with the Operator, I feel writing about it and reading your perspectives has opened up the playbook for me.