[The Ward] Medical drama powered by the Apocalypse - Looking for playtesters and feedback

Life, death, and walking the fine line between, while low on coffee.

Medical drama role-playing with the player characters on the front lines; juggling their patients' lives, their social lives, and their own sanity as the pressure mounts.

Hey all! I love Apocalypse World and all its mutated children so I've been taking a stab at putting together my own hack. It's called The Ward and it's a medical drama (or comedy!) story game; I've been working on it in private for several months, have run some great playtest sessions, but I wanted to get some more eyes on it.

I've created a Google+ group for people interested in playtesting and posting feedback, so if this piques your interest, drop me a note and I'll send you an invite!


  • edited April 2016
    Some things to start discussion/generate interest:


    Brains – intelligence, training, learning
    Guts – physical and mental fortitude, willpower
    Heart – empathy, emotional strength, humanity
    Nerve – audacity, chutzpah, confidence
    Cxn – your connection, good or bad, with the other players’ characters

    Basic Moves

    When you try to Act Professionally, or maintain your composure, in a difficult or dangerous situation roll+guts:
    On a 10+: You keep it together.
    On a 7–9: You slip, crack, or hesitate: the MC can offer you a worse outcome, a hard bargain, or an unforeseen side effect.
    On a 6-: Miss: Things get complicated

    When you interact directly with someone in need or difficulty, roll+heart:
    If you Show Compassion, concern or true caring:
    On a 10+: Hold 3
    On a 7–9: Hold 2 and they Hold 1
    On a 6-: Miss: Things go poorly.
    While you’re interacting, either player may spend their hold to ask the other player these questions, 1 for 1:
    • What’s really troubling your character?
    • How can I help your character?
    • Where is your character vulnerable?
    • What would your character like me to do?

    If you Show Contempt, disdain or indifference:
    On a 10+: Miss: It goes badly.
    On a 7–9: Hold 1 and they Hold 1
    On a 6-: Hold 2
    While you’re interacting, either player may spend their hold to ask the other player these questions, 1 for 1:
    • How could I get your character to ___?
    • Where is your character vulnerable?
    • Are you telling the truth?

    When you Display Expertise about a problem at hand, through word or action, roll+brains:
    On a 10+: All three
    On a 7–9: Choose two
    • You’re actually right: the MC will tell you an interesting fact about the current problem, and you may ask a follow-up question or two.
    • Everyone realizes you’re right
    • You’re not exposed to what’s going on
    On a 6-: Miss: You get it wrong.

    When you Feign Competence in the face of a difficult or dangerous situation roll+nerve:
    On a 10+: Choose two
    On a 7–9: Choose one
    • Your peers accept you
    • Your patient/subordinate trusts you
    • Your superiors find you credible
    • You’re actually right
    On a 6-: Miss: They see through your façade.

    When you Stick Your Hand In to someone else’s situation roll+Cxn:
    On a 10+: If an NPC, they succeed or fail, your choice. If a PC, they take +2 or -2 to their roll, your choice. If the character succeeds, they owe you a favor or, if a PC, they can give you +1Cxn instead, their choice.
    On a 7–9: If an NPC, they succeed or fail, your choice. If a PC, they take +1 or -1, your choice. Regardless, you’re exposed and/or vulnerable.
    On a 6-: Miss: You definitely don’t help.

    A note on rolls:
    For the most part rolling in The Ward is just like Apocalypse World where “high” equals “good”; in some cases, however, a low roll is the “good” result, particularly Show Contempt. This is intentional! When you’re under pressure, feeling like crap, or just having a bad day, it’s much “easier” to show contempt than compassion, and the game works that way. Just so you know, 7-9 is always a “weak success” and any time a move has a “bad” result, it’ll be listed as a “miss”, along with the roll result and, unless there’s actually mechanics listed, whatever is written in that “miss” section is simply secret code to the MC to make a move as hard and direct as they like…
  • Interesting stuff. I'm not 100% sure I'm sold about the specifics, but I really like the (apparent) focus on moves which do not resolve conflicts but, rather, enrich play and infuse with nuance. Monsterhearts moved in this direction, and your game seems to be focused on it entirely.

    I also like the upside-down Heart moves; that seems like an interesting design space, and you handle it well by labeling the appropriate result as a "Miss".
  • Thanks for the response Paul_T, what doesn't gel for you?

  • Well, just as an example:

    Showing Contempt, if I am successful, allows me to ask questions of the other player. Either I learn something about them, or we both learn something about each other.

    It seems to me that that is quite the opposite of the sort of human interaction in which people show contempt for one another. Isn't the very root of showing contempt a complete disregard, a complete lack of interest in the other person?

    Maybe it's great in play - I don't know! - but it looks a little funny to me on paper, at least.
  • I am wondering about the basic premise, are the characters supposed to be doctors treating difficult cases and all the interpersonal drama and stuff that goes on in doctor shows?

    I'm not sure how the stats and basic moves you mention would work in that setting. I'm going to assume you're looking at source material like Gray's Anatomy and House. A typical doctor show might have the protagonist facing a patient with a mysterious illness, while also having to deal with a nasty breakup and a suspicious administrator who thinks the protagonist is unfit for their job. How would these moves be used in those kind of situations?

    This is a subject of much interest to me since I work in a hospital and once spent a month trying abortively to create a Fiasco hospital playset.
  • Seems neat! I love Pbta, one thing I suggest though, would be to step aside from what is going to happen on a miss. Even if it's things go poorly etc, the MC will handle misses. Sometimes you could say in addition to what the MC - this happens. But I think overall it's unnecessary, the fiction is going to move forward with the appropriate move from the MC.
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