2014-08-20 : AW:Dark Age playtest preview: the Troll-killer

Here's what the Troll-killer looks like now. Click for PDF:

AW:Dark Age: the Troll-killer

The full playtest document is still on track for August 31. If you'd like to formally register your interest, sign up here with your email address:

Questions, comments, observations welcome!

1. On 2014-08-20, Tim F said:

Oh wow.

*drops jaw to the floor*


2. On 2014-08-20, Jim D said:

The words "have the right to" are powerful.  I find myself wondering what happens when two people's rights conflict.


3. On 2014-08-20, MichaelPrescott said:

Looks very flavorful.  I'm fascinated by the choice to use the word 'right'; it seems to apply both to a right the table to use certain mechanics, and a right within the game world, as in the case of having the right to slay whom you must.  Hah!  Hopefully this doesn't include the other players. :P


4. On 2014-08-20, Joao said:



5. On 2014-08-20, Vincent said:

Jim D: You should wonder! They definitely sometimes will.

MichaelPrescott: Yeah, no, only the other players' characters, not the other players themselves.

But yes, you're right. Both.


6. On 2014-08-20, Rob Deobald said:

I'm pretty excited to see the rest of it. I'm wondering what will be on the back side of the character sheet. ;)

I think the thing that has caught my eye so far is the experience system.  I love the idea of the group asking each character questions about what direction they want to go and what is important to them at the end of every session. That seems neat.


7. On 2014-08-20, Joao said:

I like very much what I am seeing, and what that makes me wonder.

I like all that I see and everything it makes me wonder about!

The things I have most trouble wandering about so far are:

The placing of Call on Another's Aid and Denied Your Right (Why are these conspicuously where they are?);

Season Moves: Harm (trying to figure what this means); and

Right to slay whom you must (trying to figure how this works).


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This makes...
Joao go "wondering about"*
JD go "Sounds like a license to kill"*

*click in for more

8. On 2014-08-20, Vincent said:

Joao: Cool! Answers:

Call on Another's Aid and Denied Your Right are basic moves that don't call for a roll, so don't go with any of the stats.

At the end of the season, any harm you've suffered but not healed becomes permanent.

JD is exactly right in marginalia.


9. On 2014-08-20, Per said:

Season moves!

Interesting distinction between Moves and Rights. The latter sounds more powerful, but I wonder whether they are. Then again, one of the Rights is without any detail, so it just happens in the fictions, I think?

There's a fantasy angle (trolls, supernatural things) - I wasn't prepared for that, but have no problems with it.


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This makes...
Ich go "I think Rights = Playbook Moves"

10. On 2014-08-20, Joao said:

Great answers, I am in awe with so much awesomeness!


11. On 2014-08-20, warren said:

This looks amazing, and very flavourful text.

I wonder what the three dots under "Win someone over" are. Some kind of markers for Hold?

The experience system is very interesting.


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This makes...
VB go "exactly."*
JD go "Hold 2?"*

*click in for more

12. On 2014-08-20, Tom Lawrence said:

The term "domain" in the Experience section means one of those categories in which you can mark experience, right? Like, "the Land Itself" is one domain, and "the New Nobility" is another?


13. On 2014-08-20, Tom Lawrence said:

If you;'ve declared the Ungiven future open, can the MC and/or the other players put dots in "abandon this character to die" against the will of the owning player?


14. On 2014-08-20, Vincent said:

Tom Lawrence: Yes and yes.


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This makes...
TL go "Phreooow!"
SJB go "giggling nervously"

15. On 2014-08-20, Adrian said:

It's interesting that most of the domains have 3 checks for xp. Are there other ways to earn xp during play, or just at the end of sessions?

Are there any further guidelines for assigning xp, or is this left for the group to discuss, leaving space for a conversation for each group?


16. On 2014-08-20, Ereshkigal said:

Very interesting, i'm counting the days till the 31 :D


17. On 2014-08-20, Tom Lawrence said:

The experience rules don't say to cross out an improvement after you take it, as you would in AW. I asked this means you can get the same one several times?


18. On 2014-08-20, Ich said:

Hah!  What a tease!  You've left too many blanks!


19. On 2014-08-21, Jasin said:

I wonder how Abandon this character to die interacts with Meeting Death.


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This makes...
Andy go "Bypasses?"*

*click in for more

20. On 2014-08-21, DWeird said:


I'm most excited about the things implied but not shown.

A playbook no longer stands alone, does it?


21. On 2014-08-21, Vincent said:

Adrian: Some of the season moves let you mark experience, and I think a right or two do too.

There will probably be some text for the players about how to choose which domain for each other, but I haven't written it yet. We'll see!

Tom Lawrence: Correct. You can keep getting new rights of the same domain, just as long as the MC and the other players keep giving you experience there.

Jasin: Spoilers!

Abandoning your character to die is how Ned Stark levels up.

DWeird: They don't quite stand alone anymore, no. The rules for households and belongings would easily fit on the back, but it just makes more sense to have your people on a sheet of its own. This is because more than one PC might well come from the same people.


22. On 2014-08-21, JamesI said:

Re: the Slay whom you must right.

Thanks to the You Have The Right phrasing, I could see a reading where you can literally murder anyone without a roll so long as it was for the protection of all. Going by Vincent's comment above it looks like it's a move where your character has the social right to kill rather than you as the player having the right to declare someone dead, but unless the confusion of fictional declaration rights/in-fiction social rights is meant to be a key part it maybe could be clarified.

Something like "when you slay someone for the protection of all you had the right to"?


23. On 2014-08-22, Josh W said:

The ungiven future stuff reminds me of some of the dynamics in fiasco; do you push for players to give you a particular result? Do you treat their judgement as a surprise? The unanimous judgement thing is interesting too, puts a lot of power in the MC's hands.


24. On 2014-08-22, Vincent said:

JamesI: None of your rights allow you to bypass the moves or basic rules, unless they say so specifically and by name. So "you have the right to slay whom you want" doesn't let you just declare them slain, you still have to somehow inflict the required harm.

I'll be sure to make this clear, thank you!


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This makes...
TR go "The right to be a Dog"*
VB go "sort of, yeah!"*
TR go "This is massively interesting"*

*click in for more

25. On 2014-08-22, plausible.fabulist said:

There is a lot to love here. I admit to a little grief at the lost of the previous AW:DA experience system. It seems like that was structured around an incentive to broaden play—to use all your character's stuff and skills, not just a few core gotos—which I thought would be awesome in play. I really like, in AW games, how the experience metagame adds a level to play which is skew to both the character's in-world goals ("what Dremmer wants"), and the player's, for want of a better phrase, artistic or creative or "roleplaying" goals in interpreting the character ("what Dremmer would do"). In AW, highlighting something—say, the Hx with some other PC you haven't dealt with much—immediately changes the game; suddenly you have a drive to seek out that character and start messing with them, aiding or interfering. It's a simple lever that pushes the game somewhere it wouldn't necessarily otherwise go, and I find the frisson of the tension between the various levels of goals enjoyable. I thought the earlier AW:DA system had this aspect, but was a streamlined improvement of it, because rather than a relatively arbitrary declaration by other players of where to push you, you had a continual and constant incentive to push yourself beyond what your player would ordinarily do; it also seemed to make lovely backstory sense (your strong thug can bash people all day, but he's not going to LEARN anything doing it, past a certain point—he has to go past his comfort zone and start using his less optimal attributes to actually grow and change).

Under the new system, as I understand it, experience-as-incentive is entirely replaced with experience-as-social-engineering. So the part of the "highlight round" that I appreciate in theory but am not as crazy about in play—the "opportunity to mess with each other's characters"—is dominant, whereas the "give me a direction as to what I should optimize for in play which is skew to what my character wants/is good at/would do" is gone. Experience (except perhaps for the occasional playbook move) doesn't really guide you to go certain places in play—since the decision of what to mark is entirely in the hands of other people, nothing you do affects it, except in the nebulous sense that answering question about "your aims, your ambitions, your secret plans, and your experiences during the session" might influence how things fall out. But there's nothing *during play* that you're motivated to do because of the experience system, except surviving to the end of the session. That's a big departure from most PbtA games.

I have enormous faith in lumpley's talents, so I am entirely prepared to be won over, but at the moment—as much as I like the idea of realms of rights—this seems like a loss.


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This makes...
TR go "I see it as a flip (with no teeth)"*
gk go "Somehow it never occured to me to highlight Hx?"
VB go "the game allows it--"*

*click in for more

26. On 2014-08-22, Vincent said:

Thanks, PlausibleFabulist! Playtesting will tell.

The old system proved way, way too variable in advancement rate to stand.


27. On 2014-08-22, plausible.fabulist said:

That's intriguing. Variable across PCs? Like, some were stuck in the mud while others were racing ahead? It makes sense that a sufficient disparity would be a problem.

In AW classic it's somewhat self-correcting in that if you're bogging down, people will throw you a bone by highlighting core stats, and if you are surging ahead they will correct that—and push you to explore your character's range, and get you into in-game trouble—by highlighting your weak stats.

I wonder if it's possible to reproduce that homeostatic effect with something like the old AW:DA system? Though since you've moved on, that may be a project for another hack and not AW:DA. Or, alternatively, maybe something like the old AW:DA system would work (and be sufficient incentive to alter play) if it was not the core experience mechanic but a supplemental one, like alignment moves in Dungeon World—"if you've excercised at least six different rights this session, mark an additional experience", something like that.

(Actually the session-based nature of DW xp is something that bothers me about the game. I really don't like "session" being a primary mechanical artifact, because I usually don't play in the classical "we sit down together for three or four hours of play, then wrap up for the evening" mode. If you're playing either intermittently-throughout-the-day or asynchronously online, "session" feels like an imposition on the game's flow. AW Classic experience has the advantage that it follows the character's moves, not the player's real-life scheduling)


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This makes...
PF go "should read "Actually the session-based nature of DW xp is something that bothers me about THAT game""
SJB go "agree about the session mechanics"*

*click in for more

28. On 2014-08-23, Josh W said:

More spoilers -

Disagree in the case of Ned Stark, his version would be "you change the world/your own fate is in another's control". His death as a character is his capture, and his change to the world was "Joffrey will not be accepted as the righful king".

Then add a convention that when a certain character is affected by the change another character has created, they can decide their fate. That way Joffrey's player has full ownership of his decent into tyrannous idiocy.

But that's ASOIF-world!


29. On 2014-08-28, Ian R said:

I must say, I find the 'right to slay whom you must' rich with story promise, whether it is selected or not.
If it is, present opportunities to slay the innocent where they hinder the pursuit of your quarry out of pure motives (say filial love).  Just because you have the right doesn't always mean it is right.  Or that others won't be angry.
If it's not selected, present opportunities where someone apparently innocent is compromised in some way- corrupted perhaps by the very monster you pursue.  Do you do what you must, or respect what you have the right to?


30. On 2014-09-08, Mike said:

Late and minor, but "write your betters" sounded very odd to my ear in a Dark Age context.

"Petition your betters", maybe?


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