2011-07-05 : The Iridium Plateau

I don't really have any idea what a Planet Algol is, but apparently it's a thing where there's an alien planet and science fantasy and people from earth used to travel to it by mystical means but now (this is the future) they travel to it in space ships. There are spells and force shields and killer robots and dudes with green or blue or blood-red skin and head crests instead of hair, and it's all fueled by heavy metal, violence, and abandon. So that's fun. I guess it's the creation of Blair Fitzpatrick, whom I don't know anything about otherwise. He created it as a setting for old school D&D and Lamentations of the Flame Princess, is that right?

It won't surprise any of you that my favorite part of the Old School Renaissance is the part that loves the visceral, gleeful, weird pulp and grindhouse grotesque.

Anyway but Johnstone Metzger has been running a game set on Planet Algol using Apocalypse World, and now he's made some of his conversion stuff available: World of Algol pdf.

This is great! It's just a bundle of character playbooks, a good handful of new setting-specific rules (spells, contamination, races), and notes for the MC about what your agenda and principles mean in this new context. It opens Apocalypse World up to a whole new setting and milieu, like Dungeon World and Monsterhearts do, but it's not a full ground-up design, it's a tight and minimal conversion. I like it a lot.

1. On 2011-07-05, Vincent said:

I have a suspicion about Apocalypse World hacks, based on my own experiences working on them. It goes like this:

You have an idea for a game, an Apocalypse World hack, and you start to work on it. As you develop it, you're confronted by all the challenges of designing a game - that's the red wedge. When I designed Apocalypse World to begin with, I dealt with all these same challenges, or analogous ones; Apocalypse World is all my solutions.

My suspicion is that as you deal with these challenges, you discover one of two things: either (1) my solutions in Apocalypse World meet the needs of your game after all, so you don't have to hack it as much as you expected, or else (2) my solutions in Apocalypse World don't meet the needs of your game, kind of fundamentally, so you have to hack it way more than you expected.

(1) means World of Algol 1: The Iridium Plateau, (2) means Dungeon World or Monsterhearts.

That's my suspicion!


2. On 2011-07-05, Gregor said:

I suspect your suspicions are true!


3. On 2011-07-05, Ben Lehman said:

I think we should call the red bit "the iridium plateau" because ... it's awesome.



4. On 2011-07-05, Johnstone said:

Vincent, his name's Blair Fitzpatrick. He runs 1st ed AD&D for his home group, and Flame Princess for the Red Box Vancouver crew, because we normally play Basic D&D (which the Flame Princess is based on).

AW as-is isn't a perfect fit for Algol, but me and the two of them match up well enough to make circle (1) a super, super fun game. If I wanted to hit a lot of the dungeon-crawly bits, the giant monsters, the eldritch gods, and the lost cities full of weird science stuff better, I would have to wade through that red wedge of yours and go to circle (2)—and we all know that's a ton of work.

But, as you can see, a few new playbooks is enough to start playing, in a way that isn't enough for Dungeon World or Monsterhearts.


5. On 2011-07-05, Vincent said:

I've corrected his name. Thanks!


6. On 2011-07-05, Simon C said:

That's true to my experience of making hacks.

My Conan hack was just a handful of playbooks and some musings about different threat types. It was quick, at the expense of not really capturing the essence of a Conan story. The game is essentially Apocalypse World set in Hyboria, not a Conan story.

I'm fiddling with a police procedural game, and all that's left of Apocalypse World at this stage is the nomenclature, essentially.


7. On 2011-07-05, Simon C said:

Oh! But there's another aspect.

In my Cyberpunk/Apocalypse World game, which keeps the rules unchanged but uses a cyberpunk setting (the Psychic Maelstrom is the internet), the solutions in Apocalypse World aren't a perfect fit for the game, but that makes them even more inspiring and provocative. When a corporate mercenary has to be defined as a Brute, Warlord, or Grotesque, it inspires a new way of thinking about the character. There's friction, but it's an exciting kind of friction (so to speak).


8. On 2011-07-05, C Luke Mula said:

Interesting note about the process of hacks (and really, game design in general).

So does that mean that poorly designed games are located at least partially in the red wedge? That they don't fully address the challenges of design?


9. On 2011-07-06, Ry said:

This could not have landed at a more opportune time.  For me.  Awesome!  Thanks Johnstone!


10. On 2011-07-06, Jay Loomis said:

Planet Algol sounds a lot like Encounter Critical (except maybe with less tongue in the cheek).

In any case, it sounds like a blast.

At some point on the diagram, circle #2 becomes almost indistinguishable from a circle on its own (we've diverged so much that the game being "hacked" is only barely recognizable to those not in the know).


11. On 2011-07-06, Christian Griffen said:

Yeah... I started a hack (Apocalypse Tribes, including a Beast Hunter playbook), and it veered to (2); facing that sudden increase in necessary work brought it to a halt. :)


12. On 2011-07-06, Damian said:

Some time ago, I (informally) classified hacks in three categories:

1. Reskinning (when you just change some shallow things, the color, aesthetics and you add, modify or subtract few not too important aspects of the game)
2. Adaptation (you like the game as is and you think it fits whatever genre, setting, movie or whatever you want to play with, so you keep the core of the game - I think this relates to the Concentric Game Design discussion from last month - and you adapt everything else to better fit what you had in mind)
3. Re-design (you take the original game as a starting point, and you keep some of it, but you change some of its core elements in order to change the way it works, the game dynamics and anything else that you'd feel like changing)

I think the groups in my classification can get really blurry on the edges. And I feel your #1 would cover from my #1 to the light stages of my #2, and that your #2 could go anywhere from my #2 to #3.

A true shame then I don't get that cool red "iridium plateau". :(

Beyond that, I agree with Jay Loomis in that it becomes a separate thing on its own.


13. On 2011-07-06, Jay Loomis said:

Not that any of the AW hacks I know of are anywhere near the point I'm talking about. Dungeon World, for example, is still very clearly derived, even as it gets more and more independently designed.

There's also a distinction, I think, between a game that takes another as its genesis and one that takes pieces of games and adapts them into a new whole. That's a different thing entirely (and pretty much every game ever fits that category to one extent or another, so it's not a very meaningful descriptor).


14. On 2011-07-06, Jaywalt said:

Simon: That exact tension is something Eero and I had some long conversations about several years back. Search the Forge for "Humble Mythologies."  I still think you could design an entire game around it.


15. On 2011-07-07, Simon C said:



16. On 2011-07-07, Simon C said:

Shit, there's a lot of good stuff there.


17. On 2012-02-27, Paul T. said:

Hey, Johnstone!

I thought you once told me that the PDF you've got there isn't fully up to date (for instance, you were now using Bonds instead of Hx). Is that still true?

If so, this seems like a perfect time and place to discuss those further changes you're drawn to making to the basic hack. What are they? What motivates them?


18. On 2012-02-28, Johnstone said:

Ha! I don't think it will be a perfect time for me until I am done school (in April). Tell you what, though: I will start a new thread on the AW forums, in the hacks section, called "Going From Setting Hack to Full Rules Hack," and dump my current thoughts about the process there. And you can ask questions and stuff if you want to.


19. On 2012-02-29, Paul T. said:

Sweet, Johnstone!


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