Having trouble hacking in a general violence move that does what I want.

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I want a move that is a very direct "kill" move.  AW's standard go aggro/seize by force doesn't have this because (I believe) the violence within the fiction is based upon violence as a means rather than an ends.  Well, I want violence that's a means and ends, the move to use when someone says "I pull out my sword and stab him because I don't like him."  I know Dungeon World does this, but Hack 'n' Slash leaves me a little cold.  While I love the system, those two moves lack a certain flair.

Ideally, the move itself would encompass both melee and ranged combat.  I'm going for a sort of gritty fantasy feel, not entirely unlike AW:DA, though with more of a smaller focus--not entire battles, but blow-by-blow combat.  The basics I have down so far:

When you wade into battle, roll +hard.  On a 10+, you harm your foe and choose one of the following.  On a 7-9, you inflict harm.

• You shed much blood (+1 harm, +area optional).
• You don't expose yourself to danger.
• You drive your enemy back, provoke him to flee, or impress or dismay him.

That's the basics of the move.  I think it's okay.  I know that seize by force normally has you trade harm, but I would prefer not taking harm to be an option on a successful roll--people are going to making the move more often than they might in regular AW, so there will be more opportunities to take hits.

The one thing that I want to add in to this move is a sort of stunting.  I want players to do things like disarm, trip, pin, grapple, and shove their foes.  I want them to shield bash and stun, I want them to hold their foes at bay with polearms,  I want them to smash shields and armor with maces, and so on.  And they can do all that, of course, and it can simply be presented in the fiction...but the move as-written doesn't encourage it.

Compare a couple of moves:

• The Hocus's frenzy: the move as-written reinforces the idea of the Hocus as a cult leader.  It's more than being an inspiring leader or commander, it's about "bring[ing] people forth and deliver[ing] them," and "falling into an orgy of uninhibited emotion."

• The Savvyhead's things speak: the move is more than knowledge, it's supernatural, it's about the Savvyhead being weird and sensing what he shouldn't be able to.

• The Brainer's special: the Brainer can never have a normal relationship with someone because he's a freak.  He can't help it because any time he's with someone he'll know the dark secrets within, and he might just kill the person, too.

I need something to make the move speak about doing extraordinary things in combat.  Initially, I was going to give the weapons tags, like +stun for a shield or +disarm for a sword, but those seem very limiting.

Any thoughts/ideas/suggestions?



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Up front: it's important to consider the impact and consequences of violence.  One of the things that is interesting about AW is that inflicting violence frequently exposes you to harm.   This says something about the setting and the people in it - no one in Apocalypse World is going to roll over and let you kill them if they can help it.  At the very least, they're going to take a piece of you with them when they go down.

Having a move that allows you to simply inflict harm without risk in a wide variety of circumstances is something you'll want to consider very carefully before committing to it.  It will fundamentally change how the game plays and will encourage violence (because there's almost no downside).

But if you are going to go this route, you might want to consider having something like generic "combat tags."  Don't apply these to individual weapons, but rather to people.  Think things like "disarmed" or "prone" or "stunned" or "damaged armor" or "inferior-ground" or whatever.  That way, you can structure your move like:

When you wade into battle, roll +hard.  On a 10+, pick 3.  On a 7-9, pick 1.

• You shed much blood (+1 harm inflicted).
• You avoid some damage (-1 harm sustained).
• You add a combat tag to your opponent.
• You remove a combat tag from yourself.
• You change the range at which the combat is taking place by one step beginning next turn.
• You drive your enemy back, provoke him to flee, or impress or dismay him.

On a 6-, the MC gives you a combat tag of his or her choice, or changes the range by one step beginning next turn, or makes a normal hard move.

Doing it this way allows you to really model a variety of "combat activities" in a more blow-by-blow fashion (which is sort of what I think you're going for).  So for instance, if the fight starts and I am facing a spear-armed opponent with my sword, maybe the fight is taking place at a range I can't reach.  But I'm awesome, so I get an 11 on my wade into battle roll.  I get three choices, but I can't really reach my opponent yet, so I can't actually inflict much Harm (taking "shed much blood" off the table, or maybe meaning I'd have to take it to do any damage at all).  But instead I can avoid some damage, change the range of the combat from "polearm" to "close" (or whatever), and "stun" my opponent (allowing anyone to take +1forward on their next roll against her).  The MC narrates this as me parrying my opponent's thrust with my sword, its point grazing my thigh as I leap in and bash my opponent with my shield.  Awesome.

I then attack again, but this time I only net a 5 (even with my awesomeness and the +1 for my opponent being stunned).  The fight is taking place inside the opponent's effective range because I moved in, so maybe I'm not going to take any harm (or not much).  But the MC applies the "prone" combat tag to me - as I swing at my opponent's head with my sword, she drops, spins, and uses the shaft of her spear to take my legs out from under me.  Oh, shit, now it's on!

My next roll, (maybe made at a -2 because I'm prone and facing a standing opponent who is no longer stunned) nets an 8.  I still get to pick one choice, which you'd better believe is going to be shedding myself of this "prone" tag.  Harm gets traded as established based on the weapons and the range at which the combat is occurring.  The MC describes me flailing about wildly with my sword, hiding beneath my shield, parrying her clumsy downward thrusts, and striking at her legs until I can roll over and get to my feet.

Finally, I roll a 13.  We're still at close range, so my weapon is doing maximum damage, whereas my opponent's is doing less.  I elect to soak it on my armor, and choose to shed much blood, apply the "disarmed" tag to my opponent, and frighten her.  The MC says "after regaining your feet, you wait for her to thrust again, whirling an applying your entire body into the strike which cleanly removes the top 3 feet from her spear.  In the brief hesitation she suffers when she realizes her weapon is ruined, you grin wickedly.  She flails ineffectually with the blunted club of her spear-haft, but it's no match for your armor.  Still grinning, you stab her in the sternum.  Even with so strong a thrust her breastplate takes the brunt of it, but you see the fight go out of her.  She drops what remains of her spear, turns tail, and runs."

A system like this is flexible because you can apply tags to people before the combat even starts based on the fictional positioning.  If a fight starts and I don't have a weapon in hand, I start out with the "disarmed" tag.  One of my first actions is going to be trying to clear my sword or dagger of its scabbard.  Similarly, if I'm fighting my way up the castle stairs I might start out on "inferior ground."  Removing that tag might represent me backing my opponent up the stairs until we get to the top.  Or maybe it's a special tag that can't be removed by simply wading into battle.  The options are wide open here.

It also allows you to roll in other moves, like your equivalent of act under fire.  Say I don't have a weapon in hand and want to draw one (rather than wading into battle, which might go poorly for me with my fists put up against a battle-axe-wielding opponent).  The MC's answer should be something along the lines of, "sure, roll+Cool!"  And if I get a 10+, I can shed the tag without consequences.  I don't inflict Harm, but I don't take any either.  MC: "Great! As he swings you avoid his attack with a back-flip, neatly landing on your feet, sword in hand.  What do you do now?"  On a 7-9, worse outcome (maybe my sword is out but at non-ideal range), hard bargain (my sword is out but I get hit in the process) or ugly choice (I can take the time get my sword out, but in the meantime the axe-wielding maniac is up to no good - I can either avoid damage or I can jump between said axe-wielding maniac and the NPC I want to protect, taking harm in the process).  On a miss, not only is my sword not out, but I probably got smacked - as I move to draw my opponent directs a wicked swipe at my sword arm, and while the hand hasn't been parted at the wrist his blade bites deeply.

The thing to consider with a more "blow-by-blow" system is that unless you shake it up with something like applying or removing tags or changing the distance, it can get really repetitive.  It's the old D&D mantra of "I swing my sword at his hit points."  One of the beauties of AW is that it lets the MC abstract an entire combat into a single roll, or stretch it out across multiple rolls if the situation warrants.  Be cognizant of what you're doing when you remove that temporal flexibility.

Does this help?
« Last Edit: April 09, 2014, 05:14:09 PM by Munin »

Does this help?

Yes, quite a bit!  Not unlike the Fate system.  Thank you for the in-depth discussion.



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If you haven't, also check out the Touchstone's move Indomitable.