Apocalypse World - a more descriptive/visceral approach to harm

edited February 2013 in Story Games
Here's a thing I made:

Three Harm Moves for Apocalypse World (updated: latest version)

It makes harm into a regular, player-facing move.

What do you think? Does it sound like fun, or a little too intense? The regular rules have the advantage of speed/ease of use, these rules make bodily harm a big deal, serious business, something you've got to think about and deal with.


  • I like it, I like it a lot. At first I was a little sceptical since it seemed like it would add handling time, but as you already have the Harm move in AW normally, it's the same. It makes damage more visceral and its sort of harder to tell how close to being dead you are, since the rolls can give wildly varying results dependent on the situation and result of the Harm roll. I really like how the current Harm move effects are worked into these 3 moves as minor effects, very clever.

    I'm 5 sessions into an AW game now and am seriously considering introducing these - I have two badass combat characters with 2 Armour each (Quarantine and Gunlugger) and getting a scratch on them is difficult, this would add a level of uncertainty to the fights, make them seem less invulnerable without actually taking away those playbook's strengths.

    I also found myself slipping into a hit point type mentality with the Harm segments - the Brainer got injured to 9 oclock last session and it was only the results of the healing move that brought home the seriousness of the injury (recovery involves 36 hours of constant monitoring and passing in and out of consciousness) rather than the infliction of the injury itself.

    Only thing I wonder about is how the long list of serious effects works with character mortality. On the face of it, it looks like an improvement, since actual PC fatalities looks less likely due to the number of effects you can apply before death, but there are some hard, unpalatable choices along the way which make fights scary even though they're less likely to write your character out of the game altogether.
  • edited December 2012
  • Those are excellent! I too felt the way it was wight hr countdown clock was too hit pointish. This is better an more in the spirit of the narrative style.
  • edited December 2012
    Nice one, Paul! Was this the thing that was bothering you when you started the 'blissed out' discussion, or did you come upon this afterwards?

    The core moves are awesome and intuitive enough once you figure out that it's a kind of step-ladder thing between the three.

    There are a few minor things that I'd change if it was my game:

    "Effect" sounds a bit a sterile. The list isn't only there to be pick off of, it's there to invoke colour, right? I'd go for a non-swearword if I could think something up, but otherwise... "Minor shit" and "Serious shit" might be better. Maybe "Minor hurt" and "Serious hurt"?

    For the "when something seriously scare hits you" move, I'd treat the miss slightly differently, invoke some fear of consequences right there. "On a miss, you're seriously fucked up, the MC will tell you how. You can choose to die instead." As a MC, you want some point in the system where you are no longer limited by the list. Making someone who's already blind, broken and unconscious also deaf feels weird, but so will choosing the 'dead' options when there are others around.

    The armour numbers jubbling thing is weird. Instead of granting +1 across the board for every move, I'd just grant every single character the possibility of +1 armour by making use of the environment (safety gear for savvies working on electronics, cover for 'luggers in firefights, tinfoil hats for targets of brainers, etcetera).

    -2 for +1 harm moves seems like too good a deal, and would leave splattered corpses out of unarmored characters near every time. How about just granting a free minor effect instead? You get into a fistfight with the Merciless Battlebabe, she leaves you a scar no matter how you're armored.

    Also, since you're going the narrative route, NTBFW seems far easier to solve than you made it out to be. Just have the MC treat the Gunlugger like he's fighting as a gang. Offense wise... You know when they say "fights like ten men?". You just make a NTBFW Gunlugger one of those. Similarly... In battle, Gunlugger treats seriously scary shit as if it was stuff that could kill you, and only eats seriously scary shit when it's seriously, seriously scary.

    Those bits aside, I really really like what you've done here and what it opens the doors to. *Everything* in the world gets a default custom damage move. Rusty bear traps, moldy water, a punch with a corkscrew. All kinds of stuff becomes mechanically interesting now!
  • Dopeness. I might pick this apart to use this for somethin' if you're good with it Paul.
  • "Effect" sounds a bit a sterile. The list isn't only there to be pick off of, it's there to invoke colour, right? I'd go for a non-swearword if I could think something up, but otherwise... "Minor shit" and "Serious shit" might be better. Maybe "Minor hurt" and "Serious hurt"?
    That's a good point. The rules text flavors the world so much. My ideas are not perfect either, but I thought I'd throw 'em on the food for thought pile."Minor effect"/"Major effect" can become "Nuisances" and "Problems." Gives a homage to the Hollywood/free shot logic and throws in a pinch of gallows humor. ("He died?" "Yeah, it's a problem.")
  • I wonder if changing the harm modifiers from +/-1 to 2 are needed to keep things working smoothly. Not needing to make that change means less spiraling oddness in regards to different gang sizes as well as not making people have to remember two different handling sets on moves.
  • @dweird - not sure why you were trying to come up with a non-swearword. This is fuck'n Apocalypse World after all. Also I think your comments on the armor and harm bonus/penalties is spot on. The original is a bit convoluted and feels off as written.
  • Thanks for the feedback! Feel free to grab and hack as you like, though I'd love to hear about what you do with it, so let me know, ok?

    Daumantas (DWeird),

    Lots of stuff! Real quick:

    1. The "blissed out" conversation is somewhat relevant, but only a tiny bit. This is separate! I still don't totally get the blissed out thing we were discussing in that thread. It seems to me that the effect of that move is that your trouble effectively gets worse if you go to see the Angel. But let's keep that in the other thread!

    2. Change the name of "effects" is a great idea! I like "serious shit", except that "choose one serious shit" doesn't flow so well. :)

    3. You make a good point about adding some uncertainty to the really bad situations. However, the MC choosing a serious effect is already pretty nasty: and, yes, the MC could choose "Dead". I'll think on this one! I like leaving it in the players' hands: you decide whether your character is still worth playing, or whether they should just go the route of the dead and gone.

    4. Armour numbers: I wonder if I explained this unclearly. The number jubbling only applies for playbook moves which give armour (like Divine Protection), to make them still worthwhile. Ignore it if you don't like it!

    Does my text give the impression that you're supposed to do that kind of math all the time, for all armour numbers? That's certainly not what I meant.

    Positioning for a +1 to the harm is not a bad custom move!

    5. You think -2 for a +1harm move is too much? Funny, when I was writing it I thought it was too mild (since a complete step up in damage would be +/-3). Can you explain why you think it's over-powered?

    6. NTBFW: This is funny. What you wrote there is exactly how I would handle it! Where do we disagree? I guess my text isn't too clear on this point.

    Thanks for the feedback!

  • Everyone:

    The thing about 1-armor turning into 2-armor? It's only for those few playbook moves that give 1-armor to unarmoured people (like Divine Protection and Daredevil). It won't, shouldn't come up in any other circumstances.

    The system works just fine if you ignore that bit, too, except players might be less interested in those armour-granting playbook moves.
  • edited December 2012
    Speaking of simplifying, might it be easier just to have a single harm roll like the following? I'm using "shit" here instead of effects but replace it with whatever you want — other options are "hurt" "damage" "wounds" or just use "harm"

    Base Harm
    Beaten up or grazed: choose 3 minor shit
    Could kill you: choose 2 serious shit and 1 minor shit
    Seriously scary, you're probably dead meat: choose 3 serious shit and 1 minor shit

    Harm Move
    13+ Ignore 3 serious or minor shit
    11+ Ignore 2 serious or minor shit
    7-9 Ignore 1 serious or minor shit (MC chooses 1 of the options)
    <6 Take base harm (MC chooses 2 of the options; MC can choose to turn 2 minor shit into 1 serious shit)
  • Regarding armour jubbling - explained clearly, that's exactly how I read it (apologies for not writing my own response as clearly - I see now what threw you. I think that your general goal with armour jubbling is providing a general boost to armour scores of about +1 across the board - you're increasing the top armour score to 3, and having a lot of easy to get moves be worth either a flat +2, which is huge, or a +1 for a total of +3, which is even huge-er. A situational +1 armour, keeping in line with the spirit of the "more descriptive" spirit of your hack, would seem to do much the same thing with less rewriting.

    That -2 on the roll is too much is speculation, of course, and a playtest would likely clear it right up. But here's why I think that's going to be too much - players don't choose the situation when they get harmed, so they don't use their best stat as much, so they are much more likely to roll 0-armour or 1-armour. And that's a problem because you get a lot of percentage buck for a -2, 'cause that shifts the top of the distribution curve right into miss zone (you fail 72% at a -2, which is a lot of suck for an unarmoured PC to take).

    I am not surprised that we imagine NTBFW the same way! In all honesty, I think that with your current harm system, you could leave the NTBFW unexplained and it'd work great. "Counts as a small gang", which naturally amps up damage done by him and damps damage done to him.

    If you feel like you need to have the section, then here are the things that stood out the most for me - The original text seems like it considers the Gunlugger to be at par with any gang whatsoever, which should only really be true against small gangs. Some sentences in the document seem downright weird - "They somehow always manage to position themselves so only one member of the enemy gang can effectively harm them at a time."? The fictional constraint seems weird and doesn't mesh with my image of the Gunlugger well.
  • Check out the Regiment (AW hack) for gritty harm rules.
  • edited December 2012
    OMG Riddle totally thread-bombed you, Paul T. :)

    I think your harm hack is cool.
  • @Colinaut:

    That's pretty similar to what one version of these rules looked like in development. I eventually decided to scrap it because it was too fiddly. You have to first establish what baseline harm you're taking, then roll, modify the actual choices you have to make, and finally make decisions. I think that in my version it's more direct: you roll the move, read the effect for your result, and apply it.
  • :(
    Oh noes, I didn't mean to bomb anything! Just throwing in ideas - just another implementation to draw from.
  • Thanks, Paul! Looking at it now.
  • Daumantas,

    When it comes to armor, I don't intend a "+1 across the board" at all. The only change is for playbook moves to be more effective. Maybe it's not a good idea? I could be convinced of that. In my experience, any AW character who's expecting a fight can and will get 1-armor (I think all the playbooks give you 1-armor, if you want it), and that's great. The moves, though, they're much harder to get, so I figured I'd boost them a little. I could be wrong on this point!

    I'm trying to expand the range of armor, either. By-the-book AW includes 3-armor options, but suggests to be careful with them. It seems to me that 3-armor makes people pretty much invulnerable, though, since NPCs never have the option to choose "inflict terrible harm", and almost all weapons max out at 3-harm. So I've never seen anyone use 3-armor in play. It sounds like you don't, either! But in this hack, 3-armor is just fine.

    Your point about the -2 being too harsh is a good one! Again, I'm assuming most AW PCs are wearing fashion worth 1-armor (or have an armor move), but it's true that it's not always the case. Deserves playtesting! But remember that the effects of "inflict terrible harm" should be balanced with "take definite hold of it" and other options. Would a -1 be worth it? Let's discuss it further.

    I like your thoughts on NTBFW. Would you like to take a shot at rewriting that section?

  • Ok, read through the Regiment.

    I'm not sure what it has to do with this, though. It sounds like a slightly more nuanced version (due to the Stress/Wound dichotomy) of AW harm. It's an abstract tracker for how much you're in trouble, right? The first few points mean nothing, after a certain point (9:00), things get worse on their own, if you get to seven harm, you're dead. Right?

    I spotted a few really cool things in there, though!

    I love the Medic move, and the "are you crazy" move, and I love love love marking experience on a miss.
  • Harm in the Regiment is kinda divided between potentially lethal harm (wounds) and non-lethal harm (stress), but it does it at the level of the harm itself rather than incorporating those differences into the harm move and then converting the outcome into harm. Does that make sense? It makes a similar distinction, but does it slightly later in the process.
  • Ah, that's cool. But it's still basically an abstract resource to track, like hit points, right? We could play without ever actually saying how a character's hurt--the details of an injury--and things would work just fine, yes? So, like, your group is running through suppressive fire, so you take 2-stress. We don't have to say whether you actually got hit or not.

    (It's not easy to infer all the rules from the summaries, but that's the impression I get.)
  • In terms of renaming stuff, the best I've got so far is to call minor effects "trouble" and serious effects "serious shit".

    It makes rewriting the moves awkward, though ("pick two options from the 'serious shit' list"). Is it worth it?
  • Alright! Regarding armour, here's my general thought process. In your hack, armour becomes a +stat, meaning misses are possible even for the best-armoured. This in turn makes 2-armour 'okay' (not-worst result most of the time) and 3-armour 'good' (best or mid result most of the time), same as it is for regular playbook stats. In pre-hack AW though, 3-armour is rare and makes you kind of untouchable.

    So what I thought you were doing was making the 2-3 range of armour more prevalent, because that's the range you generally want to go into battle with.

    But making Divine armour and Daredevil flat-out 2-armour or +1 to 3 makes the moves a bit too good, because it pretty much takes away a good bit of the need to actually prepare yourself for a fight - for the playbooks that *should* be doing the preparing. Plus, they're already good moves to take unaltered, especially post-hack - Divine armour isn't just 1-armour, it's 1-armour that triggers regardless of the fictional cause. Daredevil's +1 is very powerful as well - anything that can push 2-armour to 3-armour is.

    As for the -2/-1 for +1 harm moves... I have to say I'm not a big fan of moves that modify rolls in general, so it might just be that talking. I think it'd be easier to reframe it in terms of a straight-out roll-independant bonus.

    Merciless, Bloodcrazed, Inflict terrible harm - whatever harm your opponent rolls, you can always inflict one minor effect, your choice, or up a minor effect into a serious effect of their choice.

    As for NTBFW - "You count as a small gang in battle. You dish out and suck up harm like you were ten dudes, so damage you do and damage you take generally counts like a step up or down on the harm moves ladder, respectivelly. Enemy numbers don't become a problem until you're facing gangs medium or larger."

    (As an aside, it seems like your hack makes gang warfare far more scary - fire from fifteen guys is now fire from fifteen guys, instead of just 2+1 harm. Interesting!)

  • Excellent! I'll think on it; I'm in the process of a re-write anyway.

    As for armor-granting moves, you've made a good case! Let me present mine, and then let's discuss further:

    In straight-up AW, armor is very effective. If you have the Battlebabe armor move (forgetting the name at the moment), you get 2-armor if you're running around mostly naked. That literally means you can ignore gunfire (unless it's heavy weapons). Automatically.

    If she had just +2 to the harm move, instead, that wouldn't even bump her up into another category (10+) on average. So it's good, but doesn't even reduce the harm (never mind ignoring it altogether!) except on a good roll.

    So I was trying to balance those two extremes, split the difference.

    But maybe those moves are too effective, anyway.

    What do you think?
  • Well, the problem with the Battlebabe's Insane Reflexes is shared by anything that has 2-armour, including whatever gear the combat-savvy playbooks start with. 2-armour is 2-armour no matter the source.

    It's a bit strange that you're balancing armour moves in your hack against AW's baseline effectiveness, but you're not doing the same for gear. The end result is that the armour moves get a bonus relative to what they were worth in default AW - armour moves are now as good as the best default armour, and then some.

    Not that that's wrong - there's definitelly a case to be made that default AW armour moves are a bit subpar in comparison to other moves (how many pick Impossible reflexes over Ice Cold or even Visions of death?). I'm not sure that's what you're trying to do, though.

    So yeah. I think the problem is that 2-armour, no matter the source, has dropped in effectiveness post-hack, and that's what needs to be solved. Either by something semi-weird like reading the sitch granting armour bonus, or just granting a situational bonus whenever one applies.

    If I got you right, you don't care much about 2-armour gear 'cause that's easy enough to get and not as character-defining as moves are (you can always get better armour, but you can only get so many moves), so the only thing of the two that needs upping in effectiveness are the moves.

    Maybe that's right! I don't know. It probably depends on how easy it is to buy armour in an AW game. Which, experiences differ, but I haven't really seen happening much.
  • D,

    Yep, you got me right. I find armour, as written, extremely valuable in AW, and easy to get (you're right that I don't often see people buying it, but that's because most playbooks, if not all, start with armour options). Since most gang write-ups have armour, the implication, in my mind, is that armour is available and easy to get.

    If the hack makes it too useless (and I don't think it does, those bonuses are still really handy!), the MC can easily adjust by making 3-armor more available.

    Moves are not as easily adjusted in play (you can't just go "buy" one, you need an advance AND an appropriate improvement option available - choose a move from another playbook - plus you're giving up on taking some other move in exchange).

    So far I find the idea of armour-granting positional moves weird (mostly because that stuff should already be reflected by what moves you have to make, including which harm move the MC chooses when you're hurt).

    But I'm open to further convincing!
  • Ooh! Definitelly granted on the fact that the situational bonus is already kind of baked into how you pick which move to roll for. Hm.

    With that, I don't really have a good alternative anymore - I can only tell you why I still find the armour jubbling strange. If these things aren't a problem, cool!

    It's not that the hack makes armour useless (well, it does make it less useful, but that's the whole point of the hack, I feel - harm is harm, no fooling around), it's just that it makes it comparativelly less useful to moves than it did in default AW.

    I guess I'm looking at armour, and especially 2-armour, more like it's something special - a lesser version of the Savvy's workspace or Driver's car. Only the Gunlugger, Battlebabe and Chopper have 2-armour at start, whereas the Hocus and Skinner don't have any armour at all. The thing that bugs me, I guess, is that the Hocus, Angel or Driver could possibly have an easier time of getting to 3-armour than the fighty playbooks.

    Plus, well, messing with the move values is not, uh, 'elegant'. Ignoring the validity of rules-as-rules for now, "you get +1 armour when you're in an appropriatelly defensive position" reads better than "with this move, you have 2-armour, except when you have 2-armour already, in which case it's +1 armour instead."

    Anyway, I don't feel like you're getting anything more useful out of me anymore, so I'll pipe down for a bit. Will definitelly use your hack if I get to play AW again anytime soon!
  • @Paul_T - Personally, I think just one roll is less fiddly as it's nice and concise and a quick read. I think one roll is more in the spirit of AW just like there is just Seize by Force. It doesn't matter if you are charging in with a guns or swords or fists it's the same roll but the outcome is depending on the fiction.

    Either way I do recommend doing a bit of a rewrite of your harm moves just to make them a bit quicker to glean. As it is they are a bit too wonderfully descriptive and take a bit to read each result which can slow down combat.
  • edited December 2012
    @Colinaut - We'll have to agree to disagree on this one! I tried it (alone, not with a group, though) the way you're suggesting in version 2 of these rules, and it was a pain in the ass. The MC has to announce how many harm options you're threatened with. Then, instead of just using those choices (which would be a natural assumption), you have to make a roll. Then you have to read how many options to subtract. Now you have to go back and see if you still remember how many options and what kind the MC named ("was it two serious and one minor, again?"). Now you have to choose which ones to reduce and how much. Hmmm, which shall it be? Am I better off taking two minor or one serious? Hmmm. The MC also has to have the option to "upgrade" some of them. Now you have to, again, remember both those figures (the threatened harm options, and how many you just got to ignore), subtract one from the other, and finally use the result to pick results from the list of effects. There are just so many places where it could go wrong.

    In this final version you have three different moves, which is not super elegant, but the advantage is that you just make one roll and read your result, then apply it. You only need to read the result you rolled, not all of them, so it shouldn't slow down combat just because there's something to read (it's still less text than most basic moves, like seize by force or seduce/manipulate).

    @DWeird - Yes, if you use these rules, you can treat armor as a little more common. But you don't have to! It's a dial that's fine at either setting.

    The only problem I can see with ignoring the change to armor-adding moves (and only Daredevil and Divine Protection stack with armor, if I remember correctly) is that people will be less likely to choose them. Maybe. Maybe they'll take them anyway!

    Either way, fine by me!

    I like the idea of building in some kind of +1 bonus, but I don't see (right now) a way to do it that's not very ambiguous, like the option you've suggested (I feel). What's an "appropriately defensive position", exactly? In a gunfight, do you have to be behind cover? What about in a fistfight? A knife fight? When some rocks fall on you? When you take harm from a Brainer move? It's not clear to me. Most of the ways I can think of to make it MORE clear just make it less likely to be used, which invalidates the whole point of the thing.

    I could see going with, "roll at +1 unless you're completely unprepared for the attack." Then you'll get +1 most of the time, unless someone gets the jump on you.

    But that's not my goal here: I don't particularly feel the need to move the "baseline" up by one. I just don't want to completely nerf the armor-granting moves.

  • By the way, I dig this very much:

    Merciless, Bloodcrazed, Inflict terrible harm - whatever harm your opponent rolls, you can always inflict one minor effect, your choice, or up a minor effect into a serious effect of their choice.
    That is definitely better and/or more interesting.

    Unfortunately, I feel that one extra minor effect is maybe too weak, or not the right effect. You're merciless, so when you punch someone they drop their gun? Not sure if this is the kind of thing we're going for. It's close, though! Maybe instead of adding a minor effect, you get to make one of the choices for the player? Hmmm.

    Upgrading a minor effect into a serious effect is probably too hardcore for this, though. Especially for not-too-serious harm. I punch you so hard you're bleeding internally? (That's kind of cool, actually. But it seems pretty rough. I'll have to think on this one!)

    One other way I thought about doing this is to simply say that when you get a harm modifier like this, you upgrade to the next worst harm move. However, doing it by penalizing their roll is (almost) the same effect, just a little less, which I liked.

  • Well, honestly, +1 harm is not that big a deal in default, AW, right?

    Plus, one minor effect might not seem like much, but it goes along with others you might get. And it'd be something guaranteed - even when other guy is in power armour (3-armour, rolls 13+) or something, you can still punch him straight in the nose and have it do something. *And* it's a minor effect the person who wants what's worst for the target gets to determine. It's not a must-take, but it's a move.

    Oh, the writing of the suggested move reflects this poorly, but I intended the basic choice (minor effect or minor effect upgrade into serious effect) to be at the targeted player's discretion.

    So, for example, there's a knifefight and the Bloodcrazed Hardholder cuts my Hocus. I roll 13+ somehow, and the guy says "Yeah, you lose grip on your weapon." Then I'm all "What! No, screw that! I'd rather bleed out right here instead of losing my only chance to stick you like a pig. Die!"
  • @Paul_T well not having playtested, I'll trust you are right. Anyways great dialogue, I love house rules discussions.
  • @Colinaut - if you want to try it, here's the earlier version! I don't think it's as good, though, as I said:
    An Earlier Version

    It works just like the move above in that it uses the same minor and major harm effects.

    When you suffer bodily harm, roll+armor worn.

    The MC will tell you the base harm.

    Nothing too serious (getting beat up a bit) | 1 minor
    That's gonna take a while to heal (beaten by clubs) | 2 minor
    This is serious, man (getting stabbed or shot) | 1 minor + 1 major
    Downright scary (serious guns, automatic fire, explosions)| 2 minor + 1 major

    On a hit, it's not too bad; on a miss, it's more serious.

    12+: You got really lucky. Drop one minor effect, or downgrade a major effect to a minor effect.
    10+: No complications, thankfully. Just suffer the base harm.
    7-9: This one stings. Choose one additional minor effect.
    6-: Bad news, doctor. Choose two additional minor effects (or one additional major effect, in most cases - see below).

    There's just one wrinkle: whenever you are supposed to choose three or more minor effects, turn two minor effects into one major effect, instead.

    So, for example, if you get shot (1 minor + 1 major) and you miss the roll (two additional minor effects), you should be choosing 3 minor effects and 1 major effects. Instead, this turns into 1 minor effect and two major effects.
    It gives pretty much the same results... but I find it downright clunky as heck.

    Try it, though, and let me know what you think!
  • @Daumantas - That's cool. Worth trying, I suppose! I like the choice factor, it's an interesting choice.

    What I meant about the extra minor effect being kind of... not the right thing... is that it tends to be about how the attack disorients or affects the target, rather than how harmful it is. Instead of being super harmful, it tends to knock your gun out of your hands. I don't know if that's I envision a bloodcrazed Hardholder or a merciless Battlebabe. You know what I mean?

    The modifier to the harm roll does the same thing, effectively, and more simply.

    But I think your version is worth trying!
  • edited December 2012
    Here's a rewrite, v2.0:

    * More colourful terms for minor and serious effects (but at the price of horrible grammar). Worth it?
    * Do you like the slightly reduced list of effects?
    * Does moving debilities to healing (rather than damage) make things more interesting?
    * Better rewording for armor and NTBFW?

    Version 2

    ...and a fun little way to become a blind prophet.
  • Ah, one potential hiccup:

    The "miss noticing something important" option was written by Vincent specifically as something for the MC to choose. It doesn't make as much sense as something the player chooses. So watch out for that! Sometimes it will work and sometimes it might not. I might cut it out altogether or I might add "with MC approval" or "MC only" or something like that instead.

    Not a big deal, of course.
  • Just got to this thread, and I really like the changes. It seems like they would work well to make combat a thing to seriously avoid if you want to remain in one piece. Not that it's not already, but this makes things more visceral. I'm working n a deep hack of AW for a new game, and seeing things like this is informative. Thanks!
  • Thanks!

    I've also been rolling around one more "serious" effect:

    "You're in shock: for a moment, you don't know where you are or what the hell is going on"

    You can add it to the list if you want a less lethal game.
  • So, I don't mean to be a wet blanket, but there's something about these that I don't like, but I'm having trouble putting my finger on exactly what it is. I like the revisions to version 2 a lot, but it's still there nagging at me.

    It might be that except for a miss on super-bad shit, the player is choosing all their serious wounds and whether they die. It seems like there's no room for the MC to say "you stick your hand in the hole? It gets cut off," but maybe it's not for that? It's for the more chaotic moments of combat? But even then, the MC can't say "he slashes you with his sword and now you're bleeding real bad." Instead it's maybe "I have lots of medical stuff but I can't get to it just now so I'll pick it doesn't heal naturally." In any case, I'm unsure as to how much of an issue that is.

    But there's also hit points (or the harm countdown) functioning as the game's definition of when you can't play your character, a metric that everybody can agree on at the beginning, in case MCs are tempted to fudge things so PCs don't die, or in case players think the MC's decision that a wound is fatal is too arbitrary. Or so the game can add a 2-harm cushion so PCs have room to fuck up once before shit really gets real. Again, I'm unsure, because this is something that is really valuable in some situations and totally unnecessary in others.

    HOWEVER, what I really DO like about this is that it's another solid step towards taking all the numbers off the character sheet.
  • I have a similar reaction to Johnstone.

    In cases where a move strikes me that way, I usually switch the choices to the MC. They're the one whose job it is to make the world seem real, anyway, so it makes sense for them to pick the wound results.

    Maybe not what Paul is going for, but it's an option.
  • edited December 2012
    Paul, I really like what you're doing here. That said, I'm also with the Johnstone and the John.

    My feedback is this: Make it one move, and disclaim decision-making to the dice and the MC's principles.

    My suggestion is to skip the lists and just have people write down every particular and specific wound.

    That makes AW seem real to me in the way that the harm-meter doesn't.

    Also, remember that the harm meter was designed to let PCs fuck up a couple of times without serious consequences. That's why harm is the way it is.

    What I think you're doing is making AW less forgiving. I like it.
  • edited December 2012
    @Johnstone, that's a great point. This system doesn't work too well for the "MC just inflicts harm" kind of moments in play. I suppose it always presupposes that there is a chance it could be better or worse, leaving a little ambiguity. So, if you stick your hand into something, or stick it out for your friend to hit it with a hammer, you're still rolling the harm move, which means it could end being not too bad after all, or even worse than expected. "Ok, roll!"

    That doesn't bother me too much. Physical damage in real life is extremely unpredictable, I find, even when you wouldn't expect it to be - my father was in the military and he's told me stories about things like this: once during training someone unpinned a grenade and dropped it on the ground. It exploded right between the guy's legs. His coat was shredded but he was basically unhurt, completely miraculously so, just shook up by the explosion.

    Another guy, an experienced soldier, threw a fragmentation grenade a very safe distance away (he'd done this dozens of times during his career) and then turned to walk away. A piece of shrapnel hit him in the back and pierced his heart. He was dead on the spot.

    I know I've done some pretty crazy shit in my life and come out unharmed, but I also once hopped up and down on a perfectly level surface and my foot just broke.

    However maybe a better point is that all harm under this model is presumed to affect the character as a whole. It doesn't model focused harm to a specific body part very well. But then again, neither do hit points.

    I suppose you could re-define it on the spot to say that the move is about your hand: "this is something that could kill/destroy your hand", and effects refer to your hand, not your whole self. "Roll!"

    @John, that's a good way to approach it. I don't feel super comfortable telling a player they just lost their arm or anything like that, so I definitely prefer a method like this, where you automatically get player buy-in for harmful shit that befalls your PCs.

    I wish I had your confidence in telling a player they were just fucked! "Snip! Your hand's gone. You'll bleed to death if you don't tend to it pretty soon, by the way." That makes me feel tempted to back off and pull my punches sometimes.

    Then again, you could easily use this same ruleset and just have the MC pick the effects, no other changes necessary. Why not? But I like making the players choose, it gets buy-in from them as well as feeling like AW (making difficult choices from a list of things).

    And also: I'm not sure why plot immunity doesn't apply to your hand getting chopped off when it does to getting shot. In straight-up AW, you'd say: "Something bites your hand/arm. Take 2-harm." And that's the extent of what the game rules have to say about it: if they had no harm to begin with, the character can keep on going pretty much without effect. The equivalent of that in this hack is that you rolled well and didn't suffer a serious effect.

    How often do you actually say, "Snip! Your hand is gone."? That would be a rare, rare occurence for me, especially if the players are expecting that hit point buffer to give them a certain safety in the fiction.

    (Now, if you're going to use the fictional details of this injury to influence how the character acts going forward, rather than just treating it as abstract harm, that's totally fine, but whatever method you're using in that case... you can use that same method under these rules, it's no different.)

    @Orlando - I love what you're saying, agree with it in full.

    I have no idea how to implement that pipe dream, though. (Unless we're just going to start playing collaborative freeform, of course, but that's a different thing altogether. And then we're back to the MC worrying about whether he should pull his punches and stuff like that.)

    For instance, it would be way better with one harm move instead of three. I didn't set out to make three separate moves: I made all kinds of single moves, but I always had to engage in complex math or weird decision trees to make it work. When I finally had the insight to just break it into three different moves, that simplified the system to work. I'd prefer just one move, of course, I'm just not sure how to do it.

    If I were to try, I'd do something that ignores harm numbers and armor altogether, something like:
    When your character suffers bodily harm, roll. On a 10+, choose 2. On a 7-9, choose 1.

    * The damage isn't as bad as it seemed it would be, given the circumstances
    * You manage to maintain a strong position or the upper hand despite the shock
    * You can react immediately, without missing a beat
    * You take +1forward.

    On a miss, the MC will make a hard move, as usual. It could be about how bad the damage is, or it could be something else.
    With this move, you'd just look at each other whenever something feels like it could kill you. Someone shoots you in the head? That's gonna kill you. If you want to live, you have to choose the first option ("the damage isn't as bad as it seemed it would be..."). Same goes for wounds getting worse: you negotiate the details between the two of you, and apply another harm roll later if it seems appropriate.

    But for this hack I wanted it to work with the existing bits already in the game (like the seize by force move, for instance).

    @Everyone: it's not immediately apparent, maybe, but this move is pretty well balanced with AW harm in terms of lethality and the effect on characters. It has the same "safety buffer" built it. In fact, that's how I came up with it: I asked Vincent why he used hit points in AW, and he said, "it's plot immunity: there's no way the first shot can kill you". And I thought, hmm, can't you do that without the hit points, though? So I tried and this is what I came up with.

    You can adjust the lethality by adding or subtracting dangerous effects. For instance, to make the game less lethal, you could add the following serious effect:
    * You're in shock: for a moment or two, you don't know where you are or what the hell is going on
    So I don't think these rules change that aspect of AW. It's still deadly and scary but at the same time with a bit of a safety blanket built in, just as in straight-up AW.

    The difference, as I see it, is that you'll never have something marked on your harm clock without knowing what it is and how it's doing. (Like if you get healed to 6:00: what do those two remaining points of harm mean? Are you still injured, or just feeling weak? Or are you totally fine, except you've used up some of your luck for now? Same issue as with D&D hit points. I like that in this hack you can just ask the MC: hey, am I still bleeding? If the answer is no, you cross off that effect, period.)

    Thanks for the feedback. This is an interesting topic: most story games deal with harm either as an abstraction, as colour for a lost conflict, or as a metagame resource thing (like how in Storming the Wizard's Tower losing your hit points means you don't get to play that character in the next session). Very few, if any, try to make it real and visceral. AW seems to invite that treatment, somehow. So it's a fun thing to think about.
  • edited December 2012
    A bit late to the thread, but I think my only comment is small: too many minor effects. At all levels. Minor effects (i.e. the effects from the original harm move) are interesting because each one by itself can be made narratively consequential and interesting. Piling 1-2 minor effects on top of nearly every possible harm result is too arbitrarily harsh for my taste -- especially on a 10+ result -- but also, more importantly, it just seems likely to be narratively confusing and overwhelming.

    Like, you drop the stuff AND you miss the thing AND you forget about that girl and also, OH RIGHT, your eye is gouged out? It's just getting in the way of the serious effects, when they're there, and it's jumbling up the minor stuff when you have more than one. Sure, you can make it work, but what's the benefit, when all the minor moves are already designed to be super flexible based on the MC's choices?

  • edited December 2012
    (Oh man, Orly, he got super-close and then put that +1forward in. Keep him going, maybe we can still get him to do the work for us!)
    How often do you actually say, "Snip! Your hand is gone."? That would be a rare, rare occurence for me, especially if the players are expecting that hit point buffer to give them a certain safety in the fiction.
    I remember during one game (not AW) my character got the same hand cut off twice! The second time he had another PC cut it off because it got possessed when it was reattached. Which brings up an interesting point: in a setting where you have magical healing or cybernetic replacements, it is much easier for a GM to inflict terrible, maiming wounds. Also, I use a recover move partly for the same purpose--so the GM can inflict terrible and vague wounds and the player still has a recourse to say "no it's not that bad."
    Edit: And you know, now that I read it more carefully, you've got that, just with the "If you die, you can come back later" bit.
  • edited December 2012
    When your character suffers bodily harm, roll + armor. On a 10+, choose 2. On a 7-9, choose 1.

    * The damage isn't as bad as it seemed it would be, given the circumstances
    * You manage to maintain a strong position or the upper hand despite the shock
    * You can react immediately, without missing a beat
    * You take +1forward.

    On a miss, the MC will make a hard move, as usual. It could be about how bad the damage is, or it could be something else.

    Description of damage follows from the fiction and the whims of the MC. Done. or not, your tastes in amount of MC whim may vary.
  • Let me know if we need to start a new thread about this, but what is it you folks don't like about the +1 forward thing? I ask because I, too, have the tendency to put that into my custom moves.
  • edited December 2012
    Short answer: it's boring.
    Short version of the long answer: nothing happens in the fiction, it just affects the mechanics (except with Monsterhearts NPCs).
  • Huh. I don't see it that way. But fair enough.

    (OK, thread, back to your master.)
  • edited December 2012
    I'm not in love with the "you get this good stuff but not all of it" harm move.

    If I as MC could easily track the fictional harm every character suffers and think up interesting ways they get maimed every time they suffer harm, I wouldn't need need a harm move at all. I don't want to have to *analyze* the fiction to see if a guy gets a bone fracture or an artery rupture.

    What a good move does is provide clear fictional input (aside from just how good/bad it is for you) and constraints that limit, guide and reinforce what an MC can do (compare: "You're blind now!" "Nuh-uh!" "Uh-huh!" to "Okay, you got shot in the head, so lets say we get the "you're blind" option.").

    That said, I would be completelly fine with establishing minor points of harm like "you're bruised", "your gun goes flying away", whether the PC has in general suffered enough minor harm for something serious to be happening instead without ever having to look at a PC-side move.

    Maybe the move could be reworked to be about serious harm only?
  • Okay, some thoughts, after some sleep:

    1. On losing your hand. This is not really a harm thing, is it?

    If the MC says, "your hand is chopped off," that's not "inflicting harm". It's "taking away their stuff".

    Naturally, you'd want to inflict harm too ("...and mark off 2-harm"), but it's a separate thing.

    Is there some reason why you feel you can take away their stuff under standard AW harm rules (which are equally silent about stuff like cutting someone's hand off), but not under these new rules? How is it different?

    2. On the +1forward.

    It was the very last one I added to that list. The reason? It's a purely cinematic thing. You can choose to suffer more from an injury (remember, you're choosing it instead of some other option) in order to become enraged or whatever and hit your enemy back harder. Kind of a self-sacrificial move.

    I could easily see leaving it out, though, no biggie.

    3. I'm with DWeird on the application of this simplified harm move:

    * It means we have to throw a big portion of the game (a lot of the stuff about weapons, armor, some of the stuff about healing, and a lot of playbook moves that give harm bonuses or armor bonuses).
    * Personally, as MC, I don't like having to make calls about stuff like a character's death in the middle of an important scene. It's nice when the system does the heavy lifting for me there.

    For instance, if you get stabbed, we have to negotiate that you're just wounded, not quite dead. The knife's not that big, it's dangerous but not lethal. Now you get stabbed a second time. Are you dead now? What about the third time?

    It could work, but I don't think it's done just yet.

    My preferred solution would be to give the players some kind of "back door" out of deadly situations (like a recover from deadly harm move or whatever). Then the MC can easily call most harm deadly, and leave it to the players to deal with it.
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