New Custom Playbook: The Conduit

  • 11 Replies
New Custom Playbook: The Conduit
« on: May 20, 2014, 09:14:46 AM »
      Hello, everyone,

      I'm running my first game of AW and introducing it to some people. One person has played it a bunch of times before, so to keep him interested, I wanted to create a new playbook for him.

      My favorite part of AW is the maelstrom and how flexible you can be with what it can do, so I wanted to create a character that is heavily influenced by it. Please tell me what you think!

The Conduit

During the Golden Age, the world was full of content people. The apocalypse did something about that. Now most people are living in their dusty little corners of the torn world, terrified every day that the psychic maelstrom gnawing at the edges of thought will someday take over.

And then there's you. You're more than happy to accommodate the maelstrom.

Playbook Ability: Link
During character creation, pick two powers to have access to below.

The Conduit is more attuned to the world's psychic maelstrom than other people. The maelstrom's link with the Conduit almost makes it seem like a living abomination that wants to contort the world around it into chaos, and the Conduit is the lucky individual that is privy to this unwavering hunger for entropy.

Because of this partnership, the maelstrom will sometimes act to preserve the Conduit when he's in danger.

Whenever the Conduit opens his brain to the maelstrom and the maelstrom implies that it wants a certain thing changed in the world, the Conduit can work to make that change real. If he succeeds, he receives 1 hold with the maelstrom. He can spend his hold, 1 for 1, to:
  • become invisible while stationary, but only for maybe a minute
  • stun one person in sight for a moment or so
  • make one person believe a total lie, at least for a little while
  • see what should not be seen
  • cause a small amount of telekinetic force that will probably be easy to control

The Conduit can only have a maximum of 3 hold at one time. If the Conduit has 0 hold, he can still trigger one of the above effects he has access to, but he will be reduced to -1 hold. At -1 hold, the Conduit owes the maelstrom, which will make it quite clear what he will have to do to make up for the deficit.

(x) Harbinger: at the beginning of the session, roll +weird. On a 10+, hold 3. On a 7-9, hold 1. Whenever you miss a roll, you can spend your hold, 1 for 1, by:
  • causing a nearby NPC to fall unconscious
  • causing a nearby NPC to panic
  • breaking an object in sight
  • drawing attention to something else
All effects are caused by unseen forces and not necessarily attributed to you. On a miss, the MC holds 3 with the same conditions.

( ) Anything can change: when you roll a 6 or 9, you may add 1 to the total and take 1-harm (ap).

( ) Window to chaos: when you make bodily contact with someone and open their brain to the maelstrom, roll +weird. On a 10+, you create the vision they see from the maelstrom. On a 7-9, the MC creates the vision, but you can change one detail. On a miss, treat it as if you both opened your brains to the psychic maelstrom and missed the roll.

( ) Waste note: when someone near you dies and you want to preserve their consciousness in the maelstrom, roll +weird. On a hit, you succeed, and you may consult that person when you successfully open your brain anytime in the future. On a 10+, you take +1 forward when acting on their advice. On a miss, remnants of that person's consciousness and dying emotions linger where they died.

( ) Purpose displaced: while you are acting on behalf of the maelstrom, you get +1armor.

( ) Ungrounded: you get +1weird (weird+3).

Conduit Special
When you and another person have sex, treat it as if you used Window to chaos and rolled a 10+.

Creating a Conduit
Think of your own name.

Choose one set:
  • Cool+1 Hard=0 Hot+1 Sharp-1 Weird+2
  • Cool-1 Hard=0 Hot+2 Sharp=0 Weird+2
  • Cool-1 Hard+2 Hot+1 Sharp-1 Weird+2
  • Cool+1 Hard+1 Hot-1 Sharp=0 Weird+2

On your turn, choose 1, 2, or 3.
  • Choose the character that you think the maelstrom finds most acceptable. Tell that player Hx+2.
  • One of them refused to take your advice at a crucial moment. Tell that player Hx-1.
  • Choose the one you think is the most open-minded. Tell that player Hx+1.

Tell everyone else Hx-1. You're a bit unusual.

On the others' turns:

  • Oh yes, the maelstrom must have that one. Whatever number they tell you, ignore it and write Hx+3.
  • Everyone else, write whatever number they tell you next to their character's name.

  • get +1cool (max cool+2)
  • get +1hard (max hard+2)
  • get +1hot (max hot+2)
  • get a new Link power
  • get a new Link power
  • get Followers (detail) and Fortunes
  • get a new Conduit move
  • get a new Conduit move
  • get a move from another playbook
  • get a move from another playbook


As If

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Re: New Custom Playbook: The Conduit
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2014, 09:19:49 AM »
Interesting playbook.  I'm picturing scenes from "The Fury".  The idea of trading harm for a +1 is intriguing.

My question is about "what the maelstrom wants".  This seems to imply that the MC already knows what the maelstrom wants, but I'm not so sure about that.  How would you handle that question in play?

Re: New Custom Playbook: The Conduit
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2014, 09:32:36 AM »
Thanks for the feedback! I thought a lot about the "what the maelstrom wants" part, since it sort of presupposes things about the maelstrom. Since the maelstrom is a chaotic force (at least for the Conduit), I think it'll basically show the character visions of things that will have a major effect on the world, like a dead NPC, broken object, captured NPC, stuff like that.

As MC, I'll have to look at the state of the world and all the NPCs, and think about what a chaotic force would want to change. The player I made it for wants to have his visions with the maelstrom be like interacting with a powerful entity that takes human shape so his character can comprehend it.

And I'm glad you like the Anything can change move. I was a bit worried about that, since being able to change a roll from a failure to a weak hit is pretty powerful, so hopefully the harm it deals to the character is a steep enough price.

Re: New Custom Playbook: The Conduit
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2014, 04:05:10 PM »
I would be pretty worried about introducing this playbook, especially to a group of new players, because of the fact that it a) pre-defines certain things about the Maelstrom and then b) gives a lot of narrative authority over the Maelstrom to both those definitions and the player of the Conduit.

I see that you have hedged in your reply by saying the Maelstrom only 'appears' to be a "living abomination that wants to contort the world around it into chaos" and has an "unwavering hunger for entropy" to the Conduit themselves, but in my experience the first person to say something substantive about the Maelstrom tends to set the tone for the other players, and in this case the playbook itself is making the statement. If as an MC you are personally in favour of a chaotic, entropic Psychic Maelstrom then I guess that is less of a problem for your game, but personally I would not want to remove such a crucial component of narrative agency from my players.

Especially the player of the Conduit, actually. If I am going to play a character who is entirely bound up with the Maelstrom to the point of essentially being its (un)willing servant, I would be disappointed to learn that crucial attitudes of the Maelstrom in question have already been settled before play; i.e. that it is essentially chaotic. Or essentially chaotic 'for me', or whatever.

So I think there are some issues about authority over the Maelstrom as fiction (I think the Conduit's player gets too much of it), as well as pre-deciding what the Maelstrom is like; both issues could be at least partially addressed by simply rewording some of the Conduit's introduction, though a lot of the moves also have significant implications.

Ignoring my personal preference for variety-in-Maelstroms, my main concern about the playbook is that it is going to end up a lot like the Hoarder -- essentially reactive in a way that asks too much of the MC. The playbook seems to revolve around questions of what the Maelstrom wants the PC to do, and those questions can only be answered by the MC -- in the same way the Hoarder is constantly trying to improve their Hoard, and only the MC can mechanically validate those actions. (The Conduit is not nearly as bad as the Hoarder mechanically in this regard, at least, but the fictional dynamic seems very similar.) So you have a situation where in order for the mechanics of the playbook to work, the MC has to constantly provide direction from the Maelstrom, which is both more work for the MC and also not the kind of work the MC probably wants; in the worst case the MC is basically running the Conduit as well as the rest of the world, with the player providing characterization & gloss but not making actual decisions about what they want to do in the game.

There are other playbooks with built-in motivations, but in most cases the player has significant control over either what those motivations are (Operators' obligation gigs) or how they are going to go about fulfilling them (Hardholder & Hocus, whose motivations are also extremely open-ended and not specifically defined by the MC.) Also, the Conduit does not offer the player any input into what the Maelstrom is going to ask of them in general (even the Hoarder gets to choose what kind of Hoard they have) which makes the specific requests less likely to matter to the character.

Re: New Custom Playbook: The Conduit
« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2014, 04:37:34 PM »
Thanks for the constructive feedback. It's interesting that you bring up the Hoarder, since that's one of my least favorite playbooks. I didn't realize that I'm basically mimicking that which makes me uninterested in the Hoarder.

What do you think would be the best way to motivate the player by using the maelstrom without simply telling him what to do? Would that problem be avoided if I gave maelstrom visions as normal, but let the player interpret what those visions "want"? I worked with the player on this playbook, and he's happy with everything, so I don't want to change too much, but hopefully there's some subtle nuance I can correct to put all the responsibility on the player rather than myself as MC.

Again, thanks for pointing this out.


As If

  • 142
Re: New Custom Playbook: The Conduit
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2014, 04:52:20 PM »
It's a dangerous playbook alright, but for the right combination of MC and player, it could totally work.  About the maelstrom visions, here's an idea I might try: Let the other players do it.  As in "Sometimes, disclaim decision-making". 

Either one at a time or via consensus, when the Conduit gets insight from the maelstrom, you could just turn to the other players and ask them.

Re: New Custom Playbook: The Conduit
« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2014, 07:33:49 PM »

I think letting the character interpret 'what the Maelstrom wants' is definitely the right choice; you mention that the player is already imagining the character's interactions with the Maelstrom in a 'human form', but I don't see any reason the playbook should override the basic Open Your Brain move -- on a 10+, the Maelstrom's intentions may be clear(er), but on a 7-9 it should definitely require some interpretation on the part of the Conduit.

I think As If's suggestion is also a strong one, though I have a parallel suggestion for a more indirect version of the same thing: have the Maelstrom make decisions based on questions it asks the other characters when they open their brain.

The part of the Open Your Brain move where the MC/Maelstrom may or may not ask you some questions is I think an often-overlooked tool for disclaiming decision-making and playing to find out -- specifically about the Maelstrom itself. If you imagine the Maelstrom as an alien entity that begins the game unfamiliar with but curious about the PCs, then each Open Your Brain roll becomes an opportunity for an exchange of information, not a one-way communication. The Maelstrom gives visions, sure, but then it wants visions back -- it wants to know more about the PCs, about what they want or what they hate or what their hopes are for the future.

And then, at least in this case, it wants to tell the Conduit what to do about those things.

Re: New Custom Playbook: The Conduit
« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2014, 08:26:07 AM »
That's great advice that I'll try to keep in mind. I'm much more interested in the maelstrom not just being a source of answers, but something that also asks questions back. I think that will help a lot.

We played our first session and we didn't have a chance for the maelstrom to give vague directives to the character yet, but I've decided that I'll do these two things when it comes up: 1) handle the open your brain move normally, but additionally speak in vague riddles that the Conduit can then interpret on his own, and 2) make it a two way line of communication and have the maelstrom interested in all the characters. There are two other characters that open their brain regularly, so I'll use their ideas of the maelstrom, too.

Thanks again!



  • 415
Re: New Custom Playbook: The Conduit
« Reply #8 on: May 24, 2014, 01:54:15 PM »
( ) Waste note: when someone near you dies and you want to preserve their consciousness in the maelstrom, roll +weird. On a hit, you succeed, and you may consult that person when you successfully open your brain anytime in the future. On a 10+, you take +1 forward when acting on their advice. On a miss, remnants of that person's consciousness and dying emotions linger where they died.

An interesting ability, but I'm going to propose a different style for it.  The intention is to create a less stable and permanent bank for the dead guys, thus holding more true to the entropic style of your setup. It also does away with the Waste Note roll, as you need to roll again to commune with the consciousness, just let them do it. However, make them do it, to do it, make them take time out to get to the body before its lost. This leavs the element of risk, but removes the element of chance upfront.

The key to it all comes together with the second half of the move. It gives you the dead person consciousness but sets it up like a speck within a hurricane (a sense of gravitas). It could easily be lost, affected, changed, or destroyed by what it is experiencing there. The chance for information or misinformation mixing in with the maelstrom's agenda gives you countless possibilities. The key here is that calling the consciousness risks the consciousness, so there is a new number of risks involved. The final risk... well, that just sounded cool; "lost" could mean any number of things, from a haunting remnant, to being changed forever into something else, or just be gone. The key is the elements of risk to the spirit.

Waste Note: when someone near you dies and you can right then put your hands on them, you may hurl their consciousness in the maelstorm. When you attempt to speak to the dead through the maelstrom, roll+weird. On a 10+ The consciousness within the maelstrom responds to you. On a 7–9, The response is diluted by the essence of the maelstrom: confusing, half-said, or enigmatic. On a miss, the conscious maelstrom gets into you, before being lost forever. 



  • 166
Re: New Custom Playbook: The Conduit
« Reply #9 on: May 24, 2014, 11:46:14 PM »
I like this playbook! It seems entirely playable as is, and seems like it wouldn't need that much work to get polished-super-cool status. I think the playbook moves are all mostly fine - need some tinkering, perhaps a "curveball" move on the concept that's based on a stat other than weird... But primarily, you need to do give the goals of the maelstrom better definition.

My own choice would be to provide the player and MC with a list, similar to the following:

The Link:

You get 1 hold to use for a session's purposes so long as you worked on something the maelstrom wants last session because you're a PC and we like to see those guys strut their stuff. If you want more, the maelstrom obliges, but asks for one of the following in return:

* Show the maelstrom something it has not seen before
* Hurt someone who has helped you
* Hurt someone who has wronged you
* Leave a mark of the maelstrom where it will be seen or heard
* Bring a sliver of the maelstrom into a place it cannot reach
* Destroy or desecrate a meeting place, landmark, or throne of power

When you complete any of these, you immediately have 3 hold for the purposes of the session. You can spend it 1-for-1 for Link powers you already have, or blow the whole 3 hold on a Link power you do not yet have.

I'd also remove a lot of the hedges in the text. Clarity is better than a halfhearted attempt not to make things too overpowering, no?


Become invisible while not moving. Blinking counts.
Stun a person in sight until someone touches them.
Make one person believe a total lie until they see you again.
See through clothing, walls, and pretense (+1 hold to "read" moves, even on a fail?)
Invoke a telekinetic force and choose two of three: target, direction, and force.

My reworking may not be the best (probably isn't), but you can see how it would take less moment-to-moment parsing from an MC to establish how a power works at any given time.

Re: New Custom Playbook: The Conduit
« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2014, 06:48:37 PM »
inspired by inFamous?
Looking for a playbook? Check out my page!

Re: New Custom Playbook: The Conduit
« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2014, 12:13:55 AM »
Thanks everyone for the feedback!

@nerdwerds: Actually, no, I've never played inFamous. I've watched one of my friends play it though, so maybe some of it seeped into my brain?

@DWeird: I'm glad you like it! The list you thought up for the Link move is really nice, I think I'll incorporate it. My problem with the Conduit is making sure the player has his own motivations, which is tricky if the maelstrom is just telling him what to do. But with your list, the player will make his own motivations by interpreting that list into the fiction, which is fantastic.

@Ebok: You made me realize I had a typo, the move is supposed to be Waste Not, but I'll just leave it. Anyway, I definitely see what you mean, it's way more interesting for the player to get what he wants but with strings attached. Thanks for pointing that out!