2011-07-12 : Just 3 Insights?

Jeremy asks:

You've often talked about Your Three Insights. Sorry if I've missed this elsewhere, but what would you say the three insights are for AW?

To me, AW seems to be dripping with little insights about the genre, real people, and role-playing as a practice. I'm wondering if there's a single, cornerstone insight in each of these areas that the rest grow from.

YES! Thank you! I've kind of been waiting for this question.

You have the right of it.

You know how I'm always like, if your game needs you to do 6 things, make 6 subsystems? Furthermore, each subsystem, not the game at large, is an expression of 3 insights. You have as many sets of insights as you have subsystems.

"The one who's losing the argument is the one who throws the first punch" is the real-life insight that's the basis for Dogs' resolution system, but it doesn't account for, for instance, Dogs' town creation system. There's a whole different set of insights at work there.

Since Apocalypse World has, what, a dozen little subsystems, maybe more, it expresses a dozen plus little sets of insights. Right you are!

1. On 2011-07-12, Ry said:

I would love to hear about insights relating to the long-term-objective moves, like the Angel's infirmary.


2. On 2011-07-13, ndp said:

Man. I wish I had anything like the clarity about my own insights that you seem to have about yours, V. Just sayin.

(i am also very interested in further elaboration, of course)


3. On 2011-07-13, Mathieu Leocmach said:

But aren't too many insights confusing ? A game with a readable handfull of insights may be easyer to pitch, to describe to somebody else and to advertize.

I must admitt that I am having a hard time to read AW through. Not because each part is unclear but because I have difficulties to grasp the overall view.


4. On 2011-07-13, Bwian said:

This 'sets of three insights' idea is following on with the three 'layers' of insight idea?

i.e. one x insight about real life, one x insight about roleplaying, one x insight about content?  (I think I picked this set up at Dave Berg's site, where he refers to something you had said on this?)

Acknowledging I have probably not used your words or Dave's words in the last paragraph above.  But I gotta say this breakdown into layers(?) is a useful way of thinking about games generally.  [Although when I think about it, I'm not sure that I understand what's in the 'content' layer.  I'm tempted to get caught up in 'content = fictional reality' vs. 'content = genre trappings'  - i.e. is my 'content' insight about Middle Earth, or is it about Epic Fantasy?]

Can you grab us an example of a set of insights driving one of the subsystems in AW?

Or have I missed the point?

And how do you keep it fresh?  As Mathieu says, that seems like a lot of insights to come up with.


5. On 2011-07-13, Weeks said:

Is Hx a subsystem?  What set of insights is it expressing?

In particular, the clunky bit for a lot of people seems like the rollover in which: +4 -> +1 & 1 xp...does that have a foundation in insights or was it just a hack to get things working?


6. On 2011-07-13, Lior Wehrli said:

This is so true! I think it's also true (or should be true) about every creative work we do: When you make a piece of art, you build it around an insight or maybe two or three. You should not just add anything to it just because that thing was cool too. (Not true: some artists do add at random and it still comes out great art).

IMO this just means that we make our work about something, that we try to give it meaningful content. We begin work not by assembling funny little tidbits and trying to read meaning out of it in retrospect.

@Mathieu,Bwian: IMO, if you do not have an insight for a particular part of a game, don't add it! And if that part is absolutely necessary then add it in a way that it supports the insights already there. So the question is not "where to get more insights?", it's "is this insight worth its own sub-system?".

Vincent, am I getting your meaning or am I way off here?

For me, this neatly connects to what Vincent said before about connecting the what is it about with the actual game design being hard. I feel that often, the how to design it is part of the inspirational moment that come with the insight. If I don't see right away how to put the insight into the game, then it's no real insight to me.


7. On 2011-07-13, Vincent said:

Here are a couple of my older posts about insights. 2009-12-08 : Your 3 Insights, where I introduce the idea, and
2010-02-16 : Things on Character Sheets (2), which is I think a pretty good example of the idea in practice (skip down and read comment #18 too, it clarifies a lot).

Lior: Right on!


8. On 2011-07-13, Vincent said:

Weeks: The Hx rollover in Apocalypse World is absolutely rooted in my observations of people, yes. I've often had the experience where I'm hanging out intensively with someone, and getting to know them better and better, and then suddenly I feel awkward and alienated around them for a little while. I don't know them any less well, but knowing them better makes me less comfortable until I get used to it.

The Hx+3 honeymoon's over, in other words, but there's always the possibility of another Hx+3 honeymoon in the future.

It goes along with the fact that I know my brother Drew, say, better than I know Graham Walmsley, but whichever of the two I drive out to GenCon with, I know better at the end of the trip than I did at the beginning.

I think that people find it clunky in the game because there's an implied second Hx stat, but the game doesn't have any use for it so doesn't ask you to track it. It's the Hx baseline, which starts at 0 and increments with every rollover. Apocalypse World cares about how your Hxs change, relatively, not which of your Hxs are stronger in absolute terms.

If it makes you feel more comfy, you can track your Hx baselines in your game.


9. On 2011-07-13, David Berg said:

Wow, Hx feels a lot less artificial to me now.  I could spin that... "This measures the current groove you're in with the person.  How in tune y'all are will impact the ease of working together (i.e. Help rolls).  Doesn't matter if he's been your bro for years if you guys aren't in synch right this second."

As for, "that's a lot of insights", I don't think every single one of them needs to be incredibly radical and new.  I'd guess that you need a few grabby big ones for your most core subsystems, and extreme insightfulness beyond that is just a bonus.  "Here's my personal take, it may not be yours," is sufficient for seldom-used marginal subsystems.  Does that sound right, Vincent?


10. On 2011-07-13, Alex Abate Biral said:

Funny, one alteration I was considering to AW was that whenever you reset your Hx with someone, you add (or change) a description of your relationship with them. This description would have no mechanical value, being more like a cue tag to the Hx.


11. On 2011-07-13, Vincent said:

Alex, I like it. That's cooler than the baseline Hx notion. I can see hacks where that tag really matters.


12. On 2011-07-13, Simon C said:

At the least, you could use a relationship tag to "activate their stuff's downside" if they miss a help or hinder roll. Nifty!


13. On 2011-07-14, Jeff Z said:

You've changed, Dremmer! You used to be cool!


14. On 2011-07-14, Bwian said:

Thanks for the links, Vincent.

I particularly found this (from Comment No. 18 to the second link), about 'fiction' helpful:  Today I'm talking about all the possible fiction that your game can create.

One of the things this (current) thread reinforces for me is the idea that your mechanics should reward/ elicit/ promote the kind of fictional behaviour you want the players to initiate.

When I think about it, this was one of the main drivers of my own early attempts to 'fix the rules' of the various games I played and ran.  I never did play much D&D because the whole Hit Point concept seemed crazy after a while.  In retrospect, part of that was because the HP/ damage/ healing mechanism provides a bunch of play incentives that just didn't gel with my expectations of what 'should' happen in the fiction.

Your Hx example does illustrate the principle very well.  Thank you.  I can easily see the Real Life insight here.

Does this Hx mechanic also say something about 'Roleplaying as practice'?  I'm not really clear on that.


15. On 2011-07-14, Michael Pfaff said:

Is the Angel's improvement a subsystem / insight?

The Angel gets two +1Hard improvements, as if, over time seeing people get fucked up over and over makes you tougher, in that sort of thousand-yard-stare sort of way.

Maybe that's stretching it a bit.


16. On 2011-07-15, Vincent said:

Not stretching it! I'm not a health care provider, but I work in health care. I'm surrounded by nurses, nursing educators, medical interns & residents, and social services people. You can watch them get hardened.


17. On 2011-07-16, stefoid said:

I feel like Hx is not served well by being called 'Hx'.

If it is supposed to measure the dominant 'mode' of relationship that a character has with another character at any given time, then why not just give the name of that mode?

i.e.  Instead of hx+1 I have like +1, which can then go on to like +2, like +3 and then it turns to trusted +0 or something.

That may be a bad example, but Hx doesnt do it for me and other new players to the game that Im playing with currently.


18. On 2011-07-17, Paul T. said:


"Naming" levels of Hx, changing the name as it "wraps around"... that has some potential.

Is there a general term that would work for all characters? Because Hx can "mean" a lot of different things: sometimes it's trust, sometimes it's distrust, etc.

Maybe just letting the players name it themselves would work best.


19. On 2011-07-18, Ry said:

If you're struggling with Hx as sync, why not call it sync ?


20. On 2011-07-22, stefoid said:

Maybe just letting the players name it themselves would work best.



21. On 2011-07-23, Paul T. said: you might say something like:

roll+distrust to interfere with Balls!

Not every day do you get to say something like that.


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