Sunday, February 10, 2013

Two Dads Of The Apocalypse

So there's like this dad who reads all the parenting blogs and buys one of those high-end stainless-steel carriage-style shock-absorbent strollers so there'll be no long-term invisible spinal damage and only buys black-and-white toys for the first three months so the kid's eyesight develops right and the dad pays close and critical attention to everything that comes out of his kid's mouth and works with the kid to like explore the kid's emerging maturity. He is all about being a dad. This dad is a Good And Responsible Dad.

Then there's this other dad that is just a guy like most parents and does whatever and leaves the kid pretty much alone aside from going "Hey be awesome kid" once in a while and spends half the time in his garage making some extensive bizarre thing that has nothing at all to do with parenting but makes the kid go "Wow, dad, whatcha doin' in here?" and the rest of the time like flying helicopters and saving the world from nuclear terror and drinking whisky on the roof with Santigold and her sister.  This dad may not be that Responsible. He is, however, an Awesome Dad.

Now imagine these dads are post-apocalyptic RPGs...

Apocalypse World is a Good And Responsible Dad.
RIFTS is an Awesome Dad.


Which kinda bugs me because I think the author of Apocalypse World seems like he has some very good ideas and has an Awesome Dad in him somewhere (certainly more of the awesome dad than RIFTS has of the responsible dad), but he is surrounded by all these other parents who are going "You're giving him lentils? That's so smart. That's so important at this age. Hell even I need a few lentils now and again." And he's going "Yeah, lentils, for sure, I have some ideas about lentils. I'll invent a GM move called Be Aware Of The Possibility That You Could Eat Lentils, then people who GM will know that they could always eat lentils if they wanted to".

And what about the kids? What do they think? Nobody really knows. I doubt the author of Apocalypse World really knows, he just knows that all these people (game designers--personal friends in many cases, I suspect) are saying "Well if I was a kid I know I certainly would appreciate all these lentils..."

Meanwhile Awesome Dad's kid is just like "How can I be like you dad?" and Awesome Dad is just like "Fuck if I know (blows a flying manta ray out of the sky) you'll figure it out I bet" and the kid's like "One day I'm gonna figure out how, Awesome Dad..." and Awesome Dad's like "Cool, here, lick some lead paint..." "Aww, Dad, really?" "Whatever I don't care...SUCK IT MANTA TYRANT!!"

The pictures in Apocalypse World are low-rent Tim Bradstreet imitations which add nothing to the setting content but they impeccably Reinforce The Themes of the game and are embedded in impeccably readable graphic design. They Communicate.

The pictures in RIFTS range from amazing to awkward to bugfuck insane to fascinatingly wrong to Why Would You Ever Show Anyone That? but they are never dull and add details to a world all its own and some are by Larry Mcdougall and some are by Newton Ewell and they are embedded in graphic design that does not give a fuck about graphic design. They Are Just Fucking There Being Rad.


When I read Apocalypse World I get the feeling the author cares a lot about me and making my game work.

When I read RIFTS I get the feeling the author cares a lot about RIFTS and is only telling me because he can't control the overflow of his own enthusiasm.

RIFTS, of course, is a gorgeously inspiring, magnificently fat game and a ton of fun once you saw off the dumb bits (like every other game).

I'm supposed to play Apocalypse World for the first time next week. I looked through the books for a character name I could live with (like many engaged and eager dads, and like its child, Dungeon World, Apocalypse World names your toys for you) and found two in there: Barbecue and Lizard.

Barbecue is a Hardholder which seems pretty dull, so I'm being Lizard, who is a Hocus.

We will see...



(on Google +)

Zak Smith10:54 AM (edited)Edit

Let's take a look at AW:
When you go aggro on someone, roll+hard. On a 10+, they have to choose: force your hand and suck it up, or cave and do what you want. On a 7–9, they can instead choose 1:
• get the hell out of your way
• barricade themselves securely in
• give you something they think you want
• back off calmly, hands where you can see
• tell you what you want to know (or what you want to hear)
Why not just write:
When you go aggro on someone, roll+hard. On a 10+, they have to choose: force your hand and suck it up, or cave and do what you want. On a 7–9, they are scared and act like it, but may stop short of giving you exactly what you want.

(then in a tiny footnote)
Here are some examples of acting scared:
• get the hell out of your way
• barricade themselves securely in
• give you something they think you want
• back off calmly, hands where you can see
• tell you what you want to know (or what you want to hear)

Vincent Baker (AW's Designer)10:41 AM
(this is following up another thread of the conversation about sales figures and audience size but I'm leaving it here for context)
Apocalypse World's first thousand sales (let's say) were to people who already owned my other games, but since then it's sold overwhelmingly to people who didn't. It's significantly expanded my paying audience, so I conclude that it's useful to at least some people who haven't been following me for years.

Do let me run some reports and make sure I'm telling the truth before you hold me to it, though, just in case.

Zak Smith10:45 AMEdit
I am willing to take that as fact. I still think AW is written in a way its audience approves of more than it, firsthand, needs .
I would not say this about Vineyard, which, while about stuff I'm less interested in, seems like a tighter and less "helicoptery" package.

Vincent Baker10:54 AM
That may be so.

Both of those comments have plusses from Vincent, so--though I don't want to get too excited just yet--it looks like I may have just managed to use the internet as a medium of communication.


Doomsdave said...

That is the most accurate description of RIFTS I have ever read.

I don't know anything about the other game, but who wants responsible?

Doc said...

I didn't think Rifts had a world. I thought it was just a bunch of random shit layered on top of one another. I would never compare these games that way either, because Rifts isn't an awesome dad, Rifts is a dad who has so much stuff that his kid isn't being raised with any direction.

If these RPGs were gamers you could meet at a game store then Rifts is the overenthusiastic guy who wants to tell you about his awesome 56th-level half-dragon/cyborg character that just managed to acquire his 8th artifact, and Apocalypse World is the sort of quiet kid in another aisle sympathetically listening to your ear getting talked off but rather than approach you about his game has posted an index card at the front of the store inviting players to come try out his game because, you know, we're a small group and we're always looking for new players.

Rev. Dane Black said...

Yes and I think Kurt Russell is in a number of other Awesome Dad settings such as Big Trouble in Little China and The Thing.

The only other game I've ever run other than D&D (and its variants) and my own Homebrewed Stuff was Rifts -- so this post touched that Special Place in My Heart. LOL Great metaphor!

Aside: The setting of Apocalypse World reminds me of "Godkiller."

Reynaldo Madriñan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reynaldo Madriñan said...

I can phrase that better - The enthusiastic is obviously having a lot of fun though. I feel the same way about Rifts - yeah there is a lot, but utilized well it means everyone has a lot to do.

Unknown said...

I thought Rifts was the Dad who changed his rules all the time to suit himself, so you were always doing it wrong? :)

Also, you have to be careful what you say about him online, or he threatens to sue you.

Zak S said...

If you think what Kevin Siembieda or anybody else does on-line has anything to do with playing a game in your house you're doing it wrong.

Carl Nash said...

Never played RIFTS but I snap up the sourcebooks whenever I find them cheap on the second hand market because they are jammed packed full of fun. I have thrown all sorts of things into my games that grew out of my interpretation of a crazy ass RIFTS illustration.

Paul Schaefer said...

Rifts (K.S.) is the dad who gives you a phat stack of rad ideas and says, "I had a blast creating this. I hope you have fun with it, but I'm not going to hold your hand. It's _your world_ of imagination."
Also, if a GM doesn't like a rule, they can adjust it to their liking. If it makes things fun, it works.
GM is an abbreviation for "Game Master".

DestroyYouAlot said...

And then he jumps a jetski off the roof into the pool.

Talysman said...

Assuming Apocalypse World is by Vincent Baker: I've never read/owned one of his games, but I did read a lot of development ideas for a couple, and he does seem very Responsible Dad.

But on the other hand: I've never met him, but some close personal friends and their kids met him, and their boy thought he was very cool, so he must be an Awesome Dad in real life, because the boy also thinks *I* am cool. And, apropos of Awesome Dad telling his kid to lick lead paint, the boy thought *I* was cool because I showed him how to play DOOM when he was four.

Oh, and I think octaNe would be 95% Awesome Post-Apoc Dad without as many clumsy rules as RIFTS.

Zak S said...

This is why it bugs me: I think VB can do more. I hope he does.

Daniel Dean said...

Really lookin forward to buyin that LOTFP adventure. Not as much as Jeff's or the Alice module but it's tied with Gwar Dude for a solid #3.

(this really isn't related to anything but I've had a lot of snark from folks personally about how Raggi's crowdfunding initiative was a huge failure because like only 4 out of 18 or something got funded. I fundamentally disagree because now I've got four products plus the Alice book I'm eager to buy for a game I don't even run. I mean you tell me.)

Zak S said...

I can't imagine why anyone but James cares whether his crowdfund was "successful" or not.

olav.nygard said...

I think part of the success of AW is that while the game book is written in sort of a Responsible dad-way, in my experience it feels more Awesome Dad in play. That is, the game communicates enough Awesome to be fun playing, but enough Responsible so that people feel that "hey, I could totally do that AND THEN SOME"

Daniel Dean said...

In this instance it was mostly a "Haha that isn't Pathfinder" argument where it was brought up as 'ammunition?' against All Things Not Pathfinder. I don't know either.

Jesse said...

I would like Rifts more if I could effectively scrub the Wildstorm/Image comics stink off it, as described by Barking Alien in 2010:

When I was a kid I could only get AD&D 2nd Ed. and Rifts from my local hobby shop, so that's what I got. Even as naive and trusting teenagers, though, my friends and I couldn't get over the Palladium rules and make them work. Twenty years later, Rifts is a White Whale for me. I have an unfulfilled need to get it on the table, more just for the strength of the art than the setting-as-text now, but, regardless, with a completely different set of rules. It's very frustrating that house rules for this one particular game cannot be shared online.

I would totally appreciate it if I could read a play report or setting precise or campaign notes that could bring the implied gonzo of the setting to life for me. Siembieda is like the George Lucas of Rifts. I need him to sell the property so somebody, anybody, can take over and bring the writing for the setting to the contemporary level of awesome it deserves. You or Jeff for instance.

Zak S said...

Read these:

lior said...

As a fan of VB I would agree that AW does to much parenting instead of showing off some awsome. I have GMed some of VB's games and I think In A Wicked Age and Poisoned are his most uncompromizing and fun games. AW was way to restricting for my taste. Kill Puppies for Satan is certainly the most uncompromizing thing by VB, but apparently it is not really playable?

Chalceia said...

I had a lot fun playing Apocalypse World (as a Hardholder!) with one exception, which was a big fight. The dullest and most confusing big RPG fight I've had. I wanted to be like, fuck it, let's just stop doing this in Apocalypse World and continue playing it in Warhammer or something, and then we can go back.
Because the other stuff, the regular couple-of-guys fights, the intimidating the locals, the psychic-brain-scouring, etc, was all going great. I thought the dudes we came up with were friggin' rad. I didn't even mind picking a name from the list, that one time, but let's not make that industry standard or anything.

Doc said...

In my experience, that enthusiastic guy is enthused about his character's stuff and not about actual play. I could argue that his enthusiasm is at the expense of others, but then it could also be counter-argued that there is no wrong way to play. I agree with the latter statement more than the former.

The only thing I think really matters is that everybody at a game be having fun and if they aren't, it's probably the group they're with and not the actual rules/setting they're using.

I firmly believe if you're skeptical about a game you should still give it a fair shot and play it (something Zak admonished me for saying - but he's wrong) because I was also skeptical about Apocalypse World and was hesitant about playing it, after I gave it a shot and delved in I started to understand the game and found that I loved it.

Zak S said...

I am, of course, not wrong.
I'm skeptical about Russian Roulette--that is not a good reason to play it.
So: you are obviously wrong.
That said: I am skeptical about AW AND I played it and it did not deliver.

Zak S said...

Also, since your completely insane statement
"I firmly believe if you're skeptical about a game you should still give it a fair shot and play it"
can only lead to three insane outcomes:

-doing nothing with your entire life but playing nearly every game you ever heard about
-embracing games without playing them
-avoiding hearing about any game so as to avoid becoming skeptical of them

...I would hope what you mean to say was "You shouldn't harshly critique a game you haven't played" which is more reasonable.

And which statement I would still not agree with (again: I do not want to play Russian Roulette, or many other games) it is, at least, not insane.

Doc said...

I would think you would have to be insane to consider Russian Roulette a legitimate game.

That ridiculous comparison aside: you're assuming my statement is a blanket which covers all games and all skepticism. I'm skeptical that I would have a good time playing Monopoly, but put me with the right mix of people who could handle my off-the-cuff role-playing of my game piece and then I might have a good time.

I'm curious why AW didn't deliver for you. Will this be in a future blog post?

Zak S said...

You didn't qualify this:
"I firmly believe if you're skeptical about a game you should still give it a fair shot and play it "
If you don't qualify it, it's vague and we go--oh wait "Not all games?" "Not all skepticism?" Well then it's hard to see the point in typing the sentence in the first place since it doesn't provide much information on what you "firmly believe" than when you started typing.
As for AW, i don't think I'll be blogging about it any more.
It works pretty much like DW did:
and the rest is on G+.
The only remarkable thing about it is that people _think_ it's remarkable, and why they think that is the more interesting subject.
But that's a sociological question rather than game-design question.

Doc said...

Well, I do tend to speak in generalities and broad strokes, but I also accept that people are willing to make certain assumptions about those generalities that conform with their understanding of reality as they interact with it. If you're skeptical about a game there's an assumption that you have heard of the game or have taken a marginal interest in it. No single person could probably play all of the games out there, even if they wanted to, but no person could be skeptical of a game they had never heard of either.

I will tell you this: I think Apocalypse World is remarkable because of the partial success mechanic. I've never played a role-playing game before that deviates away from a binary pass/fail conflict resolution, at least not one that does it well. The idea of the partial success and that a roll is inherently a success but a success with cost, is interesting to me, and when I think about Apocalypse World and why I have embraced it that's what stands out the most to me.

I'm sure there are probably other games that have attempted this mechanic before, but I haven't really played them or if I have the mechanic didn't click with me. I suspect that my fondness for Classic Traveller made me more amenable to the AW system. But I also suspect that using a 2d6 mechanic clicks with most other people as well because it's relatively easy to understand the percentage chances of receiving a particular dice roll. I've heard it said elsewhere that rolling a d20 is too random because each individual result has an equal 5% chance of occurring and rolling a d20 is more a question of luck than it is of the character's skill. I don't agree, but the bell curve of success on 2d6 is starker than with a d20, so I understand why people make that claim.

I agree with most of your assessment of storygamey games, but I disagree with your statements that the game is too easy or that the loudest person does more than everybody else. It's the GM's job to go around the table and make sure everybody gets in on the action, and it's also the GM's job to challenge and threaten the players' characters. Storygamey games require a lot less of GMs during setup and preparation, but they require a lot more mental agility. In general.

Zak S said...

I did not report on how all games played for all humans, I reported on how they played for us.

You're not allowed to "disagree" with that unless you think you know more about what happened at my table than I do.

Doc said...

My disagreement is based on a generalized statement you made about storygamey games, as you see them or as you played them. My disagreement doesn't stem from the idea that your GM isn't making the game challenging enough or that the loudest player is not being told to calm down and wait for everybody else to get a turn, but it stems from your declarative statements about storygamey games and your insistence that you're not wrong.

Re: storygamey games you said
"-They feel really "easy"."
"-No initiative order and no limit on how often you can act. So: loudest person does more stuff than everybody else."

These sound like declarative statements about how all storygamey games play out, and your list is presented as such. I disagree with them, see previous comment.

I can only disagree with the things you say when you make declarations like that, but my telling you that you I disagree isn't wrong. Insisting that your experience that one time you did that one thing is the only valid one that exists and then backpedaling when somebody disagrees with your statements is wrong.

Zak S said...

I don't know what you're not getting here:

I played a series of games, I reported on what playing _those games_ (not all games one might choose to attach a label to) was like _for my group_ (not for all possible groups).

I was 100% honest and there is absolutely nothing you can "disagree" with in those statments unless, again, you claim to know more about what happened at my table than i do.

If you are talking about how they play _for other people_ then you are talking about something totally other than the subjec tI brought up and you have made a _mistake_ in thinking that I, too, was making a statement about how these games play _for other people_ .

Do you understand that?

Doc said...

I do. But I'm telling you, the way that you write doesn't come across like that. Do you understand that?

Zak S said...

It seems like you skipped this part:
So now does Dungeon World, a game that bills itself as "A Game With Modern Rules & Old School Style" more resemble that first batch* of games--the D&Ds and D&Dlikes--or that second batch, the storygamey games?

When we played it--definitely the second batch.
* and the batches are described and enumerated in detail

Doc said...

That statement seems to be one of "Is Dungeon World a storygamey game or not?" and I didn't think the concept of whether or not DW/AW are storygamey games or not is the point. I've already been referring to AW as storygamey anyway.

Zak S said...

I went to great lengths in that entry to list 2 groups of games _I played_ and explain that this is how they went _when i played them_ .

If you missed it, you didn't read it. There's not a lot of ambiguity there.

Doc said...

I love reading your blog.

Having a conversation with you though? Eh, feels a bit like talking to an obsessive compulsive English professor.

Zak S said...

If you want to make personal attacks instead of just going "Oh, I read what I wanted to read and I'm sorry, that was dumb" then you can but it just wastes everybody's time.

Like: you made a mistake. Just admit it and move on.

Doc said...

I know what you wrote, I didn't make a mistake, and it wasn't a personal attack. You went to great lengths in that post to say something was from your personal experience, but you used that post to explain how another game worked.

You do have a tendency of not being understood. You mention it in your comments, and you joke about it in your posts. You have a thousand different ways of saying "That's not what I said." It does seem like you do that a lot, and I'm merely trying to point out why that might be.

And I guess my point is this: I am allowed to disagree with you. Your personal experience led you to make assertions about how the game operates and you made those statements declaratively. When you do that you will spark dissenting opinions regardless of your one sentence disclaimer. Not engaging with that dissent seems to be pretty easy for you since all you have to say is "That's not what I said." I still disagree with what you did say.

Zak S said...

"Your personal experience led you to make assertions about how the game operates and you made those statements declaratively."

No, it did not. It led me to _report_ how it _had operated_ for my group.

I was not describing "how the game works in the future for other people" I was describing "How it works when we play it"

And a "one sentence disclaimer" should ALWAYS be enough. The words are there to be _read_, not to fill space.

Even if you WANT to disagree with something I did not actually say, it is still pointless because you fabricated something to disagree with.

Doc said...

I really didn't.

I disagreed with your description of how a game operates. I even accounted for the fact that how your GM runs the game matters. I explained why I disagreed. You told me I wasn't allowed to disagree and distracted with semantics, and I disagree with that as well.

Zak S said...


I reported on how a game worked FOR OUR GROUP and you disagreed with that.

Maybe you did this because you thought I was talking about something other than how it worked FOR OUR GROUP. If you did that, you didn't read what I wrote.

Zak S said...

And,for the whateverth time:

If you are going to disagree with me saying how a game works FOR OUR GROUP you have no evidence because you weren't there.

Doc said...

That's not what I disagreed with.

If you're going to avoid my viewpoint by nitpicking then maybe you should just ignore what people say when they disagree with you. Or you could read what I originally wrote, I explained myself pretty clearly.

Zak S said...

Here is the exchange, here on the internet, directly quoted, for anyone to see:

Me (from the cited review):
"Characteristics of the "second batch" games when I play them:"

(including: the games were too easy and the loudest person did the most work)

"I disagree with your statements that the game is too easy or that the loudest person does more than everybody else."

(What you should have said in order to be making any sense: "When I play them, the game is _not_ too easy and the loudest person does _not_ do more than anyone else.")(maybe you could add "I don't think this is true for most people either because _____)

"I did not report on how all games played for all humans, I reported on how they played for us.

So, right there, in direct quotes, is you saying "I disagree" with what I reported happening to me.'

You were imprecise and what you said was, therefore, confused sounding and unhelpful.

Doc said...

Don't you mean that you were imprecise? That wasn't a direct quote from yourself. The quotes were from a list of observations you had about storygames based on your experience, and the EXACT quotes were
"-They feel really "easy"."
"-No initiative order and no limit on how often you can act. So: loudest person does more stuff than everybody else."
and I disagree that those statements are indicative of storygames. I also stated, here on the internet, for all to see, that "I agree with most of your assessment of storygamey games, but I disagree with your statements that the game is too easy or that the loudest person does more than everybody else."
Since that sentence structure clearly states what I'm responding to and what my opinion is there shouldn't be a 15 comment long dispute about the semantics of what I misunderstood, because I didn't misunderstand you just said I wasn't allowed to comment.

So, if I boil it down to it's essence, you wrote "We played this game and it's a certain type of game and from that experience I think these games are all like this." and I said I agreed with most of those statements, except for two of them. Then, from what I can gather, you told me I misunderstood because that was just your opinion and I wasn't allowed to disagree with it. Which is pretty condescending, even if it isn't a personal attack.

I'm also pretty sure that this conversation, if it were happening at a table, would not go on this long because it would essentially be this:
You: When I played this game I had this experience and now I think this about the game.
Me: Well I've had a different experience and so I don't think that about the game.

I wasn't imprecise, and what I said wasn't confused sounded or unhelpful. You just didn't read it (as evidenced by your wildly out of context quotes).

Zak S said...

No. Not at all. You misread:
you wrote "We played this game and it's a certain type of game and from that experience I think these games are all like this."
No, I did not write that--that would be _crazy_ and wholly uncharacteristic of me because I don't generalize from my group to other people or from games I played to games I did not play--I only report what happened,

Here's what I said:
"We played this game and it's a certain type of game and from that experience I say the gameplay was, when played by my group, much like the gameplay of the following games:
Over The Edge
Marvel Heroic RPG
S/Lay With Me
3 quickie story games I wrote
and Burning Wheel.
was when my group played them. I will attach the label "storygamey" to these specific games so I don't have to type that over and over when I discuss them."

I did not anywhere for even a second generalize from those games to other games or from our experience to that of any other humans anywhere ever.

So: you made a mistake.

Doc said...

No, I didn't make a mistake.

Zak S said...

Well then explain your mistranslation. Because it is wrong.