2012-06-18 : Moves as Jumping-off Points
At the top of my current Q&A thread, Jim D, John Harper and I talked a tiny bit about Apocalypse World’s moves as a provocative jumping off point for interesting fiction, not just as a productive constraint, and John said:
The fact that it’s not hard to make good jumping-off points is key to the popularity of AW as a hacking framework.
I’d like to say what I think about this, then throw it open for all of your observations and thoughts.
My model for compelling fiction in rpgs goes like this: a protagonist or protagonists with internal integrity, who’ll act with will toward a purpose, in a situation that denies them what they want and need. They act and react, and the other people and forces around them act and react, according to their own natures. Because their interests are incompatible, their actions are in conflict, and because it’s in no one’s nature to simply sacrifice their own best interests to someone else’s, the conflicts escalate. A conflict escalates until one side’s exhausted or broken, or loses its will - until they can’t or won’t stay in the fight - and there the conflict resolves. One side’s interests prevail, but only after they’ve proven their need and suffered the full cost for it.
Escalating conflict and resolution is the backbone of compelling fiction in this model.
Arenas of Conflict
When one character acting with purpose meets another character acting with conflicting purpose, I call the nature of their conflicting actions an “arena of conflict.” Very broadly, the social arena, the physical arena, the political arena, the military arena, the academic arena, the legal arena, the theological arena, the commercial arena, and so on. More specifically, car chases, fistfights, courtroom shenanigans, caper sequences, cat and mouse sequences, seduction, intimidation, and undead hillbillies chasing you through the woods with a bear trap on a chain.
As the conflict between the characters escalates, it can both escalate within a single arena of conflict and escalate from one arena of conflict to another. A car chase goes as far as it can and becomes a running gun fight, which becomes a cat and mouse sequence on moving subway cars. Pierce Brosnan’s character flatters Geoffrey Rush’s, then provokes him, then coerces him, then sells him out.
Which arenas of conflict are available to the characters? This is an important piece of genre. In Dangerous Liasons, the conflicts play out in one set of arenas - flattery and seduction, charged but mannered conversation, personal provocation and entrapment, ultimately a duel with swords. In The Avengers, the conflicts play out in an entirely different set of arenas.
Apocalypse World’s Moves
Apocalypse World’s moves (1) create the arenas of conflict in which the game’s action plays out, and (2) create the differences between those arenas of conflict. They do it in a transparent and accessible way, simply by saying “these are the things that characters do when they’re in conflict with one another, and these are the different possible outcomes of each.”
They help you see and understand the genre you’re working in. You can create a set of moves by watching a movie or reading a book, taking note of what the protagonists do, and taking note of what happens when they do them. Or by just imagining scenes that you’d like to see! You can check your set of moves against another work in the same genre to make sure they’re complete and sound.
The differences between the arenas they create is just as important as the range of arenas they create. In fiction, according to this model, the differences between the arenas matter because in different arenas, different characters are stronger and weaker, different things are at risk and different things can be won, and different things are under the characters’ control or out of it.
Apocalypse World’s moves create these differences, again transparently and accessibly, not only by having different possible outcomes, but by having materially different procedures. Some moves have you ask another player questions. Some let you choose the outcome, others let another player choose the outcome. Some leave your next action unbiased, some offer enticements, some cut off possibilities, some make demands.
So that’s what I’ve got. Apocalypse World’s moves are jumping-off places for interesting fiction because they’re how these interesting characters escalate and resolve their conflicts, and they make it easy to create interesting jumping-off places because they’re a structured way to express your take on a genre.
What do you think?
1. On 2012-06-18, Vincent said:
2. On 2012-06-18, Gregor Vuga said:
3. On 2012-06-18, Kit said:
4. On 2012-06-18, Vincent said:
5. On 2012-06-18, Kit said:
6. On 2012-06-18, Vincent said:
7. On 2012-06-18, zac in viriginia said:
8. On 2012-06-18, Vincent said:
9. On 2012-06-18, John Harper said:
10. On 2012-06-18, Vincent said:
11. On 2012-06-18, Rafu said:
12. On 2012-06-18, Vincent said:
13. On 2012-06-19, David Berg said:
14. On 2012-06-19, Alex. D said:
15. On 2012-06-19, Vincent said:
16. On 2012-06-19, zac in viriginia said:
17. On 2012-06-19, Vincent said:
18. On 2012-06-19, Tim Ralphs said:
19. On 2012-06-19, Jim D said:
20. On 2012-06-19, Matteo Turini said:
21. On 2012-06-19, Josh W said:
22. On 2012-06-20, Rafu said:
23. On 2012-06-20, Josh W said:
24. On 2012-06-20, Vincent said:
25. On 2012-06-23, Evan said:
26. On 2012-06-24, Graham said:
27. On 2012-06-25, J. Walton said:
28. On 2012-06-25, Vincent said:
29. On 2012-06-25, Vincent said:
30. On 2012-06-25, Gregor Vuga said:
31. On 2012-07-01, Alex Abate Biral said:
32. On 2012-07-02, Vincent said:
33. On 2012-07-02, Alex Abate Biral said: