thread: 2011-06-27 : The Dice & Clouds series from 2009

On 2011-07-12, Tim Ralphs wrote:

I think we might be missing something really important when we say that the Apocalypse World GM (MC) is impartial. They're clearly not. They have upfront, expressed agendas, and they make a lot of decisions regarding the interaction of rules and fiction based on those agendas. (And, I suspect, their own sense of what makes compelling narrative and what will ensure people have fun.)

Take, from the example in the book, the Brainer Marie activating her pain wave projector as her 'action'. The MC could have legitimately asked her to Act Under Fire at that point, given that she was lying, dazed and prone, with three gang members bearing down on her with hand guns and a chainsaw. ("You rolled an eight? Well, you can activate the pain wave projector, but they're going to get a clean shot at you while you're lying there fiddling in your pockets. Or you can scramble deeper into the room, but good luck finding the right switch while you're crawling around.") The MC could have asked her to roll for Going Aggro or Seizing by Force, with the pain wave projector establishing the level of harm inflicted. Any of those calls would have felt credible, and would have been in accordance with the principles of keeping Apocalypse World real and (to an extent) making the character's life not boring.

Depending on Marie's stats, that decision could have really messed with her chances of surviving the scene.

And moments later the MC decides that the 1 harm inflicted on one of the gangers is enough to leave them comatose. This is an interpretation of the harm rules that the MC is entitled to make, but not particular pushed to by the description of "1 harm" in the book. Again, this interpretation of the rules has a pretty significant impact on whether Marie survives or not.

In a way, it looks to me like there's something akin to illusionism happening here. It feels like Marie scrapes through the encounter by the skin of her teeth, she made a good decision in activating the pain wave projector and she overcame the odds. But actually, the MC made some quick calls that really helped her out along the way.

I don't know. Maybe this is less relevant to this discussion and I should take it to the AW forums. It just seems obvious to me that *something* is happening in AW that keeps away the "buzz" that was described above. (And jeez, I recognise what Moreno is talking about.) I'll agree with Vincent when he says that in play you don't notice how it's happening. But I fear that attributing whatever is happening to MC impartiality would be missing something useful.

Relevant to this thread, I think part of it may be the level of detail at which Apocalypse World moves apply. It gives creative leeway. Part of it is that the MC is a fan of the characters, that the NPCs are all viewed through cross hairs, that the PCs are bad ass, that there's all the misdirection covering up the mechanics, that the MC has no pre-prepared plot or solutions for them to be trying to save. Blah blah blah. Clearly there's much more to be said.


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