Trying to understand the nature of moves

  • 2 Replies
Trying to understand the nature of moves
« on: June 15, 2017, 02:50:10 PM »
I am exploring that nature of moves in AW and whether they are an aid to playing or whether the moves are  more than that and create a deeper dynamic within the game.

In most RPGs, if not all of them, if a character wants to do something then the GM/Players will work out what skills and/or attributes apply to it and then the player rolls whatever is appropriate to determine the outcome of the action, whether that is success or failure, or partial success etc etc. Moves in AW work the same, in that the player says what they are doing or how they react and then the move that is relevant to that course of action is consulted, which determines what stat modifies the 2d6 roll and the different types of outcomes that can result. So, in this regard, I don’t really see a difference between moves and other RPG systems that don’t have such a rigid move system.

Then you get to the written options under moves. I am unsure how strictly these need to be adhered to. If a player wants to ask a slightly different question to the ones mentioned in a move, or the GM/player has an idea of a consequence/complication that is not listed under that move, are they bound by what the move says or can they add new things, take it in a slightly different direction? My presumption is that you can go off piste and roll with whatever has been come up with, rather than having to stick strictly to what is written in the move itself i.e. moves are helpful guidelines rather than the Ten Commandments written in stone. However, I want to check that I am correct in this.

Looking at moves themselves, they seem very similar to stunts in Fate e.g. they allow you to substitute one stat for another in a roll, or allow you to do something outside the rules covered in the basic moves i.e. they give the character with that move a way of creating outcomes that are unique.

Moves in AW are all written down and finite i.e. there are only so many moves in the game, and each of them is carefully defined. So, when acting, a player can only choose one of the exisiting moves available (or rather the description of what they are trying to do has to be attributed to one of the moves). So it seems that if something is going to be done then it needs to be accomplished through an existing move – moves are not generated on the fly. However, I presume that all actions a player might want to make are covered by an existing move, in one form or another, so while the list of moves may be finite they cover anything that a player may want his character to do i.e. the aim of moves is not to limit possible actions, but rather to distil all possible actions down into general categories.

So, I suppose what I am really trying to figure out is whether moves in AW are just helpful guidelines for players and GMs/MCs, or whether they play a deeper role, and if they do play a deeper role, what is that role?

I hope I have explained that well enough. Take a move like Read a Sitch. It has a number of possible questions that can be asked, 3 for a 10+, 1 for a 7-9, and 1 for a 6-, but be prepared for the worse:

• Where’s my best escape route / way in / way past?
• Which enemy is most vulnerable to me?
• Which enemy is the biggest threat?
• What should I be on the lookout for?
• What’s my enemy’s true position?
• Who’s in control here?

Is the list of questions a hard list i.e. questions have to limited to the list, or is it just a list of potential questions, a useful guide to the kind of questions that could be asked, but players could ask different ones if they wished to or the MC allowed? If it is a hard list, then what is the design basis behind having a defined list ? Why does the list need to be limited in this way?

I am just trying to get my head around how strict as a GM/MC needs to be when running the game and overseeing moves and their effects.

Re: Trying to understand the nature of moves
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2017, 05:59:55 PM »
Although there may be a few corner cases and exceptions to what I'm about to say, in general you should err on the side of interpreting the rules exactly as they are.

The moves and lists of choices are not examples of things you might do with the game... they ARE the game.

Quite notably, "anything you might conceivably do" isn't supposed to slot comfortably into moves. There will be many, many things you'll want to do which are not mechanical moves at all. Rather, only roll dice (or apply a specific rule/move) when its conditions are being met.

The rest of the time, you just play: the player says what they do, and the MC responds with an MC move. Sometimes this will feel like you *should* be rolling dice (if you're experienced with other RPGs), but you won't. That's good and fine; in those moments, make an MC move, instead!

For example:

Player: "I'm digging around, looking for the trap. Can I find it?"

[Player looks expectantly at the MC: it feels like we should be rolling dice here! However, there is no move for "finding traps", is there?]

MC responds with a move of her own: "This looks exactly like the kind of place Dremmer would set up some kind of nasty contraption to trap the unwary. It's dark, though, and you can't see too well. You're pretty sure that if you stuck your arm deeper into the muck, you'd be able to find out one way or another. What do you do?" [The MC is offering an opportunity, with a cost, and asking. If the player wants to find the trap, they can, but it might mean losing a hand!]

Make sure you read through the clarifying text for each individual move; there are helpful tips in there! (For example, it will answer your question about Read a Sitch: if a player asks a question which isn't on the list, just pretend they did ask something from the list. If that doesn't make sense, ask them to pick from the list, instead.)

The moves do a number of things to structure play. An important one is that they inform and portray a very specific genre. Being able to roll for certain things but not other things shapes play in a very particular way.

They also shape the way the players talk to each other and how the fiction is established. (For example, the various "reading moves" create a very different kind of relationship between characters than in other games.)



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Re: Trying to understand the nature of moves
« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2017, 05:18:41 AM »
To go off your specific example of Read a Sitch (and Person), there's something very, very specific I say to all my new players about a minute after introducing the moves. On average, I find that it's about this time they feel the itch of "Why this specific list? Why not something else?" and then I get them to all shut up and say this:

"Yes, the list is limited, but here's why - If you ask a question on the list, I have to give you a truthful answer. You can ask me any question you like, but if it's not on the list, it's up to me whether I answer or not, and whether or not it's true. I'll err on the side of fun. But to re-iterate, if you roll high enough to Read a Sitch, and if you ask one of the questions from the list, then I have to tell you the truth. Otherwise it defeats the purpose."

Then they all nod. This is the clearest example, but as Paul is saying, you don't have to roll for everything. You can't roll for most things. It's not a case of "In order to attack someone, you have to Go Aggro". Only when the specific conditions are met do the dice come out. Only.

Vincent wrote Apocalypse World in a specific way. It might not be perfect, but there's a rhythm to the moves that I enjoy a lot. Rely on them.